FLORIDA | Total Eclipse of Gingrich: Romney Super PAC Delivers Astronomical Punch

6 years ago

Maybe he's kidding or maybe I don't get the joke.

At any rate, former House Speaker Newton "Newt" Gingrich advocated recently for the colonization of the moon. As in, the big white planet in the night sky which affects our tides.

If you're going imperialist, go big.

Jan. 23, 2012 - Tampa, FL, USA - Candidates Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich debate on stage in the NBC, National Journal and Tampa Bay Times Repulican debate on January 23, 2012 at the University of South Florida in Tampa. [Edmund D. Fountain, Times photo] (Credit Image: © Tampa Bay Times/ZUMAPRESS.com)

Mad or not, Gingrich remains in the hunt as former Massachusetts Gov. Willard Mitt Romney leads the 2012 GOP presidential pack for Florida's Tuesday primary.

A poll taken the day Gingrich unveiled his moon colony plans showed him in a dead heat with Romney, who performed surprisingly well in Thursday night's debate.

But as recently as Sunday, polls showed Romney besting Gingrich 42 percent to 31 percent after a pro-Romney super PAC, Restore Our Future, pumped Florida with $15.34 million in campaign spending compared to pro-Gingrich's super PAC, Winning Our Future's $3.39 million.

Tough to gain ground when being outspent 3-1.

Still tailing the two front runners, Rep. Ron Paul and former Sen. Rick Santorum, are in contention for the third place slot.

Early rumblings of a Santorum dropout surfaced after the recent debates. Though even with his young child in the hospital, Santorum has denied that he's out for the count just yet.

A commanding lead from Romney in Florida might mean he's genuinely connecting, big money talks or Republicans simply are liking him more when faced with the option of having to vote for Gingrich.

Yet Gingrich may still poll fairly well nationally and if he should be able to get past some bumps in February, he could snag some key wins in March.

It's doubtful the former governor cares much at this point as to the hows and whys of his lead. But it is curious that Gingrich still remains viable, given that he's been thought KIA a couple of times since announcing his candidacy.

Perhaps Gingrich offers the GOP what Romney has yet to deliver: a gutsy, in-your-face approach. Maybe the race wants a scrapper.

His interview with David Gregory on Meet the Press after the South Carolina primary victory reaffirmed Gingrich's ability to respond to even the most uncomfortable questions with bold and direct answers; something Romney could not in what's become a famous failure of an interview with FoxNews.

Romney failed not because he didn't answer questions, but because he came across as defensive and strangely awkward.

Even interviewer Brett Baier later said that Romney accused him of being "overly aggressive." Sort of a head scratcher, when he was head-to-head with the proverbial choir.

Romney should never expect media interviews to be easy. He's running for president -- self-assurance and steely composure are key characteristics for the job.

Conversely, Gingrich's style comes across too prickly, too risky for Republicans to send off down the Yellow Brick Road hoping he doesn't implode.

Admittedly, a Gingrich-Obama matchup probably would make for great debate theater. Gingrich would come across as smart, politically savvy and a master in the art of triangulation, like Bill Clinton but without the crucial likeability factor.

The minute his numbers gained on Obama, a few hit pieces on Gingrich's personal and professional failures would leave him in the dust.

A Romney-Obama race would probably make the most sense; both fierce campaigners with unbelievably deep pockets. Today, Obama advisor David Axelrod gave hints of their fear at such a possibility by casually firing warning shots across the bow, and even calling Romney a "weak frontrunner."

It's unclear how long Gingrich lasts with the outsider song and dance.

As noted Sunday on Meet the Press, a powerful Florida win for Romney could mark the start of a full-scale fisticuffs between these two that will force them to divide and conquer respective bases.

Unfortunately, such divisive tactics weaken the Republicans to moderate and swing voters. But it certainly will make for great theater.