As expected, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney won the Florida Republican primary on Tuesday night, the first primary on the GOP campaign calendar held in a state that comes close to reflecting the nation’s cultural and demographic diversities. Romney, having lately discovered his inner angry man, bested his only real challenger, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, by at least a dozen percentage points in a race that was called right after all polls closed. (The final results of the race are here, via the Washington Post.)
With a blowout long-foretold now in the books, Romney lays more solid claim to being the presumptive Republican nominee. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and Texas Rep. Ron Paul are still in the race, finishing Tuesday in third and fourth place, respectively. But Gingrich assumes his most provocative role in the campaign season, having announced he intends to stay in the race through the bonanza of March 6, Super Tuesday. Part Lazarus, part Jake LaMotta, the pummeled, disliked former speaker of the House, left for dead more than once, vows to be still standin’ when the campaign pulls into Tampa in August — whether the party establishment likes it or not.
If there was any doubt of Gingrich’s intention to stay the course, that doubt vanished last night, when Gingrich supporters held aloft placards with the words 46 STATES TO GO — minutes before the candidate addressed the crowd — throwing conservative rhetorical red meat into the crowd with both hands. The Republican reality show had just been renewed in a state that sacrificed half its delegates to hold a primary on such an early, influential time in the 2012 race (the penalty for breaking Republican Party rules by moving the date so early on the calendar).
For President Obama, recently somewhat liberated from his bipartisan tendencies, the Republicans’ ongoing existential crisis is his campaign’s current, best opportunity to position his White House — and down-ticket Democrats running in state races this November — as having a clear direction for the country’s future.
Consider the president’s recent pugnaciousness on policy. Through recess appointments, executive orders and the power of his bully pulpit, Obama has taken off the gloves. We’ve had recent flashes of what some have called “the new Obama.” In September, addressing a joint session of Congress, the president introduced the American Jobs Act, a $447 billion measure intended to “provide a jolt to the economy that has stalled.” The president all but called out by name certain Republican leaders from beleaguered districts.