In Florida, negativity reigns

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney scored a commanding win in Florida Tuesday, but you’d never know it by listening to Newt Gingrich’s post-primary speech. The former House Speaker declined to congratulate Romney on his win, vowing to continue what has become a scorched earth campaign for the Republican nomination.  

“We are going to contest every place and we are going to win,” Gingrich said Tuesday in front of a crowd of supporters holding signs that read “46 states left.”

Romney won 46 percent of the vote Tuesday to Gingrich’s 32 percent—a result the former Speaker said makes clear “this will now be a two person race between conservative leader Newt Gingrich and the Massachusetts moderate Mitt Romney.”

It followed a nasty week on the campaign trail in Florida, which saw a final blitz of negative ads ahead of Tuesday’s vote. In the week before the primary, a full 92 percent of ads run in the state were negative, according to an analysis by Kantar’s CMAG. The vast majority of those ads were aimed at the former Speaker.  

With Gingrich, former Sen. Rick Santorum and Texas Rep. Ron Paul all vowing to remain in the race, expect more of the same going forward. One GOP strategist warned subsequent contests will start “a vicious cycle of negativity” even as Romney tries to pivot to general election mode and preach Republican unity.

“In some ways they both went to the brink in Florida,” Republican strategist Fred Davis says of the fight between Romney and Gingrich. “The difference is that [Romney’s] brink isn’t as close to hell and damnation as Newt’s is.”

Davis, who produced ads for a pro-Jon Huntsman Super PAC this cycle, called Gingrich’s last-minute Florida efforts “sad.” Specifically, he targeted a late robocall from the Gingrich camp that accused Romney of denying Holocaust survivors kosher meals when he was governor of Massachusetts.  

Says Davis: “I’m afraid poor Newt has just dissolved into desperation mode.”  

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