I understand why he’d want to hit Newt hard on Freddie in Florida, which has taken a beating from the housing downturn. What I don’t understand is what he’ll say when Newt reminds the world tonight that Mitt put more than $250,000 in mutual funds that invested in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, among other government entities. Romney will come prepared with some sort of spin, but I think details are almost meaningless to most voters with tu quoques like this, especially with a candidate like Mitt who’s already perceived as two-faced. (Why is a guy who’s famously worth nine figures calling on anyone to give back some of their earnings, anyway? Terrible optics.) The takeaway will be Newt telling Mitt that his hands are dirty too and therefore he’s in no position to judge, and that’ll be that.
Question: If, like me, you’re clinging to the vaporous hope of a late entrant and/or brokered convention, how should you be rooting in Florida? For Newt, right? If Romney holds off Gingrich there, he’s back on track for the nomination, even if the slog will be longer than he first expected. If Gingrich upsets Romney, establishment Republicans will wet themselves in terror at the thought of an allegedly unelectable candidate becoming the nominee and will scramble to head Newt off. Maybe that means pushing someone new into the race or maybe it means propping the two of them up in various ways so that delegates split three ways between them and Ron Paul and no one has a majority at the convention. The Mitch Daniels fans are pleading with him again to reconsider, which makes sense insofar as Newt’s rise seems to have neutralized character attacks in the race. (In Daniels’s case, any attacks would be aimed at his wife, not at him, which makes them even more unlikely.) The problem with Daniels as a late entrant, though, is that he too would be seen as an “establishment” candidate, perhaps even more so than Romney. He’s a Bush guy, after all, and would have plenty of wealthy donors behind him, which Gingrich would frame as an attempt by “insiders” to rig the election twice at the expense of grassroots conservatives after having failed to do it once with Romney. If establishment Republicans really want to stop Newtmentum, they’d need a candidate with grassroots cred to blunt Newt’s pushback. Jindal seems like the most obvious option to me: He’s a free agent now that Perry’s out of the race and he’s universally respected among grassroots conservatives. But could he win a three-way race with Romney and Gingrich (or, rather, a four-way race with Paul) at this point? Hard to imagine. I think it’s brokered convention or bust.