When Newt Gingrich won South Carolina, I smiled. Mitt’s taxes probably did it.
I mean, really.
It’s not bad enough that Mitt Romney is still the expected favorite. Florida won’t swing as wildly as Middle Earthburg. But there’s definitely an air of skepticism that Mitt will have to address before tomorrow night’s debate.
The more nuanced pundits claim the only reason Newt won was because he had advertising parity. I can see that as a factor, but the gut impression was more about Mitt’s presence at the debates. Frankly, the guy can’t debate a grocery bag and not look either elitist, hesitant, or plain unsure.
At least the grocery bag knows what it is.
This asks a more important question about Mitt’s War Room, and the complete breakdown of control they had in Carolina. Where were they when Mitt flubbed his tax records, his marginal rate, and his speaking income? They had plenty of time to prepare Mitt on the topics, just like Mark Block had plenty of time to see the storm coming for Herman Cain’s alleged sexy times. They could’ve released any tax records the minute Newt did, just to stave off enough doubt with only days to the primary.
As for Newt, I finally feel the voters get it. Newt won, and in beautiful fashion. Taking 40% of the vote, he nearly eclipsed the 3rd and 4th place vote combined. Conservative voters finally woke up, which means we will see this race go long, putting Super Tuesday into the matrix. The only downside is we have to feed the media machine, as debates are now guaranteed to Super Tuesday.
And as an aside, for the good of the nation…Please let CNN stop hosting debates.
For one, John King is a smart guy. And it’s sad to see intelligent newsfolk get pwn3d by stupid questions that give a state to Newt. In fact, one might wonder if this exchange was intended to be incendiary, because a 24/7 news agency just created product. It was a T-Ball question for Newt, and the response was already rehearsed and scripted. Don’t tell me that was an accident.
And some breaking news as I type: Romney’s releasing his tax records. Yes, with the MSNBC debate coming up tomorrow night, Florida is actually a do-or-die state for Mitt. We will get to see his tax records, maybe even a few questions on those deductions, loopholes, and more money spent on tax return preparation than normal people make in a year.
No, wait…Mitt’s releasing them..ON TUESDAY.
(pausing to smile)
So when the MSNBC debate kicks off Monday night in Tampa, the 2012 GOP Convention host city, Romney gets away with tax murder. You know Mitt’s had these returns dialed-up for weeks, if not months. His campaign has probably been furiously working on them, trying to hash out expected attacks from not only the right, but the left. They know Mitt’s tax returns are dangerous in this SuperPAC climate, and swift-boating is done best by those who invented it.
By releasing them after the debate, he can preface the release during the debate, and temper the expectations or disclosures that will dominate this coming week. In short, he can create the narrative the night before he actually releases them.
This is Newt’s opening to possibly sink the USS Romney. There are still viable conservatives in the field. If Newt or any other candidate can prevent Mitt Romney from translating his tax records before they’re released, they could really hurt Mitt.
Ron Paul and Rick Santorum still pull about a third of the vote, and will remain relevant until Super Tuesday. If Newt can’t chop into Florida, he won’t have a chance.
Super Tuesday will go to Romney if he can survive Florida. Not for his policy, but his organization. Newt simply cannot compete nationally without the media close at his side. Come February, there’s no state-by-state format, and no media junket to cling to.
Romney’s taxes should define the Florida race. And for Rick Santorum or Ron Paul, this is also the opening to take down Newt’s momentum. Stop Mitt from explaining his tax records before they are released, and you will produce uncertainty, perhaps enough to get a foothold to return to Tampa with a serious number of delegates.
But just remember the lessons of a scorched earth campaign. The Washington Post sees it too. Mako out.