“The bruising battle in Florida didn’t turn nasty because the philosophical differences between Mitt and Newt were so significant; it got ugly because the disagreements between them were so trivial…

“It’s easy to see why the two men might come to resent and despise one another. Gingrich has worked for 40 years to organize and inspire conservative Republicans in their push for political power, and now he sees his path to the nomination suddenly blocked by a spoiled, preppy multimillionaire who spent most of that time disengaged from electoral activism and describing himself as ‘moderate’ and ‘independent.’

“As for Romney, he built a beautiful, stable family while toiling tirelessly in the private sector to compile a sterling record remarkably free of scandal of any kind, only to find the nomination he knows he deserves awkwardly threatened by a shopworn, overweight gas bag whose entire life has been punctuated by embarrassments, accusations, and explosive unpredictability in the personal, political, and even business spheres…

“With Mitt’s big win in the Sunshine State, the frontrunner would surely welcome a less vitriolic tone in the contests that lie ahead: as the likely nominee, he must recognize the possibility that more negativity could leave serious stains on his gee-whiz, nice-guy, Boy Scout reputation.”

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“Newt Gingrich, coming off a bad loss to Mitt Romney in the Florida primary, on Wednesday pummeled his rival for the GOP nomination for saying earlier in the day that he was focused on the middle class and was not ‘concerned about the very poor’ because they have a safety net.

“‘I am fed up with politicians in either party dividing Americans against each other,’ Gingrich said, speaking to hundreds of supporters packed into the Great Basic Brewing Co. here. ‘I am running to be the president of all of the American people and I am concerned about all of the American people . . . . My goal is to find steps for every American to have a job, every American to work, every American to be able to buy a house. I believe that America was founded on the dream that we are in fact created equal and we have a chance to go out and have a chance to pursue happiness.'”

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“Kellyanne Conway, a senior adviser to Newt Gingrich, tells National Review Online that Mitt Romney’s comments to CNN earlier today, that he is ‘not concerned about the very poor,’ are a ‘startling reminder that Romney may not be the next John McCain, but the next John Kerry.’

“‘That comment, like so many others by Romney, is not just odd but out of touch,’ says Conway, a veteran GOP pollster. ‘He does not share a connective tissue with the average American.'”

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“Romney’s down-and-dirty Florida campaign eased right-wing doubts about his toughness.

“Romney hammered Gingrich in the debates, and then carpet-bombed him with negative advertisements. 68 percent of the ads that ran in Florida were negative spots attacking Gingrich, and Romney’s only positive ad was a Spanish-language spot that aired 15 times in total. While this gloves-off approach may have tarnished Romney’s image with swing voters, it helped reassure the many conservatives who were attracted to Gingrich because they want a no-holds-barred fighter for the fall campaign.

“As John Podhoretz wrote on Monday in the New York Post, Florida was a test of Romney’s mettle: ‘The clean-cut Boy Scout Ken-doll candidate from Massachusetts needed to show his fellow Republicans that he could be mean, tough and merciless on the attack — that he could take it to his rival and best him.’ Consider that mission accomplished.”

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“As the congratulatory calls trickled in to Mitt Romney after his 14-point victory in Florida Tuesday night, the message was pretty clear from main rival Newt Gingrich: Don’t wait by the phone.

“‘The other candidates all called,’ Romney told TODAY’s Matt Lauer Wednesday. ‘I guess Speaker Gingrich doesn’t have our phone number.’…

“The ongoing mudslinging between the two candidates was caricatured on the latest cover of ‘The New Yorker.’ In a parody of Super Bowl Sunday, it shows President Obama delightedly watching a big-screen television featuring Gingrich and Romney pummeling each other while wearing the same uniform. Romney’s campaign poured $15 million into attack ads against Gingrich in Florida.”

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“Obama has broken even with Ohio voters. 48% now approve of him with an equal 48% disapproving. His net approval has increased 8 points from 41/49 when PPP last polled the state in early November. The most important thing that’s happened since then is Obama’s base rallying around him. He’s gone from a 73% approval rating with Democrats to 82%. And although he remains unpopular with independents he’s still seen a 13 point net improvement with them from -26 (30/56) to -13 (40/53).

“While Obama’s becoming more popular, his opponents are moving backward. Only 28% of Ohioans have a favorable opinion of Mitt Romney to 56% with a negative one. Independents (30/53) and Democrats (14/73) pretty universally dislike him and he’s not that hot with Republicans (43/36) either. Ron Paul (27/57) and Newt Gingrich (25/59) are even more unpopular. Rick Santorum actually has the ‘best’ numbers of the Republicans in Ohio at 35/48.”

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Via Mediaite.

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