No Bull, No Fluff, No Smudges
Your news source for
Flagler, Florida and Beyond

Bloodied Candidates Stumble Toward Florida Finish as Gingrich Wilts and Romney Adjusts

| January 27, 2012

Bloomberg Businessweek developed the cover to the left for its Jan. 16 issue but pulled it, posibly when it got wind of New York magazine's cover for the Jan. 30 issue, now on newstands.

Rivals spent the 19th debate of the Republican primary cycle — and the final before Floridians head to the polls Tuesday — whaling on former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich in an attempt to finish off his post-South Carolina momentum.

Gingrich’s standing was already tottering in the latest batch of Florida polls after he rode a win in the Palmetto State to front-runner status. On Thursday night’s CNN debate, held at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville, Gingrich came under fire from all sides, and a particularly re-invigorated Mitt Romney, who appeared to be profiting from rehearsals with his new debate coach: Brett O’Donnell, former adviser to Michelle Bachmann and debate coach for John McCain in 2008.

Even as the other candidates — Romney, still favored by many observers to win the GOP nomination; former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum; and Congressman Ron Paul — looked to knock Gingrich off his perch for national reasons, the debate had a Florida flair. Questions about space, immigration and Latin America and Cuba all played a role, as did the housing crisis that has hit Florida as hard as almost any other state in the nation. Polls are swinging back in Romney’s favor. Even FlaglerLive’s poll, which had Gingrich or Paul ahead of Romney for most of the last few days, now has Romney slightly ahead.

Romney was more aggressive than usual — former U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson, who has endorsed Gingrich, conceded that Romney was “feisty” — as he sought to wrap up a state critical to his hopes of winning what has essentially been a five-year campaign for the presidency. On several occasions, especially at the beginning of the debate, Romney returned fire against Gingrich assaults, putting Gingrich repeatedly on the defensive and making him look unsettled.

Supporters quickly crowed over what they called one of Romney’s finest debates.

“I thought tonight was the closing argument for Mitt Romney,” said Florida House Speaker-designate Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel. “I thought that he spoke with a passion and a conviction unlike, frankly, I’ve ever seen in a debate.”

Even Gingrich’s supporters were faint in their praise of the speaker.

“I don’t think it hurt him,” said former Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum. “I’m not so sure he had a home run here tonight to hit.”

But McCollum also questioned whether some of Gingrich’s opponents might have misplayed their hands, particularly in their criticisms of the former speaker’s ambitious plans for space exploration, a key industry in the state.

“Most of Florida really cares a lot about that program, and the nation should care about it,” McCollum said.

Gingrich began the night on defense on the issue of immigration, as Romney used an ad that labeled the former governor as “anti-immigrant” — based on his comments about illegal immigration — to tee off on his main rival.

“My father was born in Mexico,” Romney fumed at one point. “My wife’s father was born in Wales. … The idea that I’m anti-immigrant is repulsive.”

Gingrich countered Romney’s outrage with what he said was the difference between them — that Gingrich doesn’t favor deporting “grandmothers” who might be illegal immigrants but had spent years in the country.

“I am prepared to be very tough and very bold, but I’m also prepared to be realistic,” Gingrich said.

That brought a quip from Romney referencing the number of illegal immigrants: “Our problem is not 11 million grandmothers.”

Gingrich, in a clear lunge for the tea party and more extreme vote in the party, also pledged that he would make English the “official language of government.”

The candidates also clashed on Gingrich’s plan for a moon colony. Rivals said the plan was a budget-busting pander to Floridians at a time when most Republicans are concerned with slicing the nation’s budget deficit.

“And you can’t do that by grand schemes. … Those are things that sound good and maybe make big promises to people, but we’ve got to be responsible in the way we allocate our resources,” Santorum said.

Gingrich said his plan would focus heavily on incentives for the private sector–he claimed 90 percent of the venture could be financed by the private sector–and could work with in a restrained budget by finding cuts elsewhere.

“You don’t just have to be cheap everywhere,” he said. “You can actually have priorities to get things done.” Romney’s answer: “I spent 25 years in business. If I had a business executive come to me and say they wanted to spend a few hundred billion dollars to put a colony on the moon, I’d say, ‘You’re fired!’”

At times, Gingrich tried to launch attacks, responding to Romney’s repeated references to his work with government-backed mortgage giant Freddie Mac by pointing out that Romney had invested in Freddie Mac, sister organization Fannie Mae and banks involved in foreclosures in Florida.

“So maybe Governor Romney in the spirit of openness should tell us how much money he’s made off of how many households that have been foreclosed by his investments?” Gingrich said.

But Romney forced Gingrich to concede that some of the speaker’s mutual funds were also invested in Freddie and Fannie.

Romney did not come out of the debate unscathed. Santorum used one section of the debate to hammer away at Romney on his signature health-care plan, similar to President Obama’s program — which is anathema to conservatives, even though Santorum himself had, like Romney, once clearly supported individual mandates.

“We can’t give this issue away in this election,” Santorum pleaded. “It is about fundamental freedom.”

Paul spent much of the night blending contrarian answers with humor. Asked what he would do if Raul Castro — a bête noir for many of Florida’s Cubans — called the White House, Paul responded: “I’d ask him what he called about.”

He also took a far more conciliatory position to Cuba than many older Cuban-Americans in Miami would be comfortable with.

“Not to talk to them and take the call and see what you can work out helps Castro,” he said. “It hurts the people, the dissidents, the people who want to overthrow him have always had to be nationalistic and unified behind the leader.”

–FlaglerLive and News Service of Florida

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

8 Responses for “Bloodied Candidates Stumble Toward Florida Finish as Gingrich Wilts and Romney Adjusts”

  1. Donna De Poalo via Facebook says:

    Loved your blogging last night :)

  2. Jojo says:

    Haha, Love your graphics!

  3. Thank you Donna. Live-blogging the World Cup was more fun though.

  4. Donna De Poalo via Facebook says:

    Yes. I would imagine that is true . But still fun for me. ;)

  5. Dave Francis says:

    Newt Gingrich has no right to offer any amnesty or path to citizenship to any person, as he is not paying for the unfunded mandates for their children’s education, or family health care, food stamps, federal housing or other welfare or even a stint in America’s prison system. Nobody in this country should be financially supported by taxpayers, who entered this country illegally or should they get any kind of amnesty? Although President Obama by his special orders has already accomplished this, by deporting criminal aliens and other aliens are allowed to remain here. Problem is to get any job, you have to show your stolen ID and therefore that person has already committed a felony. They are already have stolen millions of jobs with forged or stolen Social Security numbers, birth records–now they want New Mexico provide or re-issue Drivers License?

    What next allowed voting in state and federal elections, just like United States citizens? Isn’t anything sacred anymore? Mind–illegal aliens have been voting in our elections, using fraudulent Absentee ballots and procured picture ID of a legal citizen in the same family? Fight back and join the TEA PARTY. Go to, and for stomach churning details of where your taxes are going, for any person who slips past the border or flies in from foreign counties. Hopefully citizen’s voters recall or throw out of office every pro-illegal alien, anti-sovereignty Governor, Judge, Police Chief and city administrator, who is an advocate for wide open borders. If you read the Liberal press, you will never learn the truth or facts. The potentates of each party are to blame for the encouragement of the illegal alien occupation.

  6. Dorothea says:

    Gee Dave, I think Newt is a total flake and a liar to boot, but removing 11,000 illegal grannies from the United States as Gingrich favors, is not on the top of my priority list. As for the Tea Party, you can find my responses here:!/NoTeaParty

    Here is a quote for you to read:

    amnestynoun: (1) The act of granting forgiveness to a group of individuals by an organization such as a government. (2) A scare tactic employed by GOP candidates to deflect attention from their opposition to a sensible solution to fix our broken immigration system. President Obama supports the DREAM Act, which would give patriotic and diligent students an opportunity to achieve the American dream, and is committed to passing a comprehensive immigration reform that would create a legal immigration system that secures our border, holds employers who game the system accountable, and makes sure undocumented immigrants follow the same rules as everyone else. Republicans, on the other hand, are obstructing progress on all sensible solutions by playing to their Tea Party base and hiding behind buzzwords such as amnesty.

  7. Dorothea says:

    Correction: Newt favors granting amnesty to 11 million illegal grannies.

  8. palmcoaster says:

    Who won last night in Co, Mo and MN ; Santorum or Obama..? Maybe Obama brived Donald Trump to endorse Romney? I think Obama will be the first Democrat President to be re-elected by the Republican Party. When it comes to the GOP today, all have to say is that “At least the Titanic had a band”

Leave a Reply

Read FlaglerLive's Comment Policy | Subscribe to the Comment Feed rss flaglerlive comment feed rss

More stories on FlaglerLive

Get Email Alerts to FlaglerLive

Enter your email address to get alerts.


suppert flaglerlive flagler live palm coast flagler county news pierre tristam florida
fcir florida center for investigative reporting
FlaglerLive is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization | P.O. Box 254263, Palm Coast, FL 32135 | Contact the Editor by email | (386) 586-0257 | Sitemap | Log in