Well the results are in and Romney wins Florida, and ALL her delegates, big time.
What a 10 days this has been. It started with with both Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum receiving heinously anti-Mormon introductory comments at speeches. It ended with Newt Gingrich saying that Mitt Romney had no understanding of religious liberty or conscious, and revelations that Sarah Palin manages her Facebook page in a blatantly anti-Mormon fashion. WOW!
And yet, with all that religious bile spilled, Romney won going away. Well that is except among Evangelicals. According to USAToday exit polling Romney barely edged out Gingrich among those that professed to be “a born-again or evangelical Christian” 38% to 37%. In the words of the immortal Mr. Spock, “Fascinating Captain.” Another curious fact is that Jews comprised a mere 1% of the Republican electorate today. Michael Medved tweeted:
“Koshergate” apparently backfired-absurd Gingrich claim that Mitt denied kosher food to Holocaust survivors!
Medved claimed on a Hugh Hewitt radio interview that “Koshergate” is what kept Jewish Republicans home. This may account for why noted leftie Frank Rich claims:
Rich added, “It’s almost as if he’s closeted about his religion and I think that makes him seem fake.”
People are not truning out because of the religious incivility, so if you’re a leftie – keep ‘em home.
When I went looking for a video of Gingrich’s abysmal post-result speech, I found it here and noted this in the comments:
How Glenn Beck can NOT say that Romney is a progressive is beyond me It must be that Mormon brother hood
So, here’s what we really know. Evangelical heavy South Carolina has a clear distaste for a Mormon candidate. Exit polls and reports from GOTV callers seem to back this up. Evangelicals in Florida don’t care for him much either, but given the much more diverse nature of Florida they don’t matter. Most importantly, Florida looks a lot more like the nation as a whole than South Carolina does.
Everyone seems to think these results are determinative, even if the primary race is not over. So, let’s presume Romney will win the nomination and ask if the religion question can still hurt us if it is played heavily in the primary, as it has been to date. The answer seems to be that it clearly can. Amongst all but the Evangelicals, the religion issue seems to have become distasteful. Amongst Jews, who would have a particularly sensitive set of feelers to religious discrimination, it appears to be driving them away in droves.
Thus the real danger presented by Gingrich’s continued presence in the race, particularly if he continues in the shrill and nasty fashion he has, is that the moderates and independents on whom general elections always lie are going to be turned off to the Republican side of things. Fortunately, there are ultra-left places like Gawker and HuffPo just chomping at the bit to go all “Mormons are weird,” which should act as a counterbalance to that force. However, Obama does not seem to get smeared with the same brush as his media allies nearly so much as Romney will get smeared by a brush that should really only paint Gingrich and his increasingly small band of devotees.
It’s time to corner Gingrich, we simply cannot afford to let him appear to be a part of the Republican mainstream, not if he is going to continue to operate in this fashion. Gingrich’s non-concessionary speech struck me as someone that was trying to get his arms around his particular niche audience. I did not hear third party threats so much as I heard the kind of rhetoric one might expect when trying to build a social network and develop a media career.
I thought when Gingrich got into this thing it was a vanity campaign. He was the beneficiary of a confluence of some extraordinary forces (Perry’s dismal failure coupled with pretty strong anti-Mormon sentiment) and it went to his head – he started to take himself seriously. Tonight I heard a man returning to his original idea, with one notable exception – his audience is not where he thought it was. His audience is amongst the more extreme and less tasteful of our conservative Republican movement. Unlike Huckabee who after catering briefly to this element tacked center, Gingrich is tacking increasingly towards the hard and ugly right. Huckabee has built himself a nice little media empire. Gingrich may think that is what he is doing too, but he is so blowing his credibility that it may not materialize in the fashion he thinks it will.
But the biggest problem is he may give Obama a second term in the effort. We CANNOT let that happen.
The best place to start is to steal an issue from Gingrich. He prominently featured a discussion of the Obama adminsitration’s recent move against faith-based health care providers. The Catholic Church is coming out on this in the strongest possible terms. Mitt Romney needs to get in front of this as fast as he can. Where Gingrich appears to be religiously divisive, we need to build bridges, and hurl rocks at Gingrich to make sure we can build faster than he can destroy.