Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Live-blogging the 2012 Florida primary: Mitt goes negative, Newt falters -- the beginning of the end of the Republican presidential race


7:18 pm - Yup, here we go again.

After Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina, our full attention's been on Florida for about 10 days now... and it's a biggie. I'm just going to have some dinner, but I'll be back shortly and will be live-blogging frequently throughout the evening, with contributions from Richard as well. We know who's going to win, and it'll be called very early (like 8:01?) but we'll try to keep it interesting by keeping the whole damn thing in perspective. See you soon.

7:28 pm - You can see the results here. Returns are already coming in -- 36% reporting.

7:29 pm - Okay... we're almost there...

7:30 pm - Almost there...

7:31 pm - Just a little bit more...

7:32 pm - Yes! The Reaction is now ready to declare Mitt Romney the winner of the 2012 Florida Republican primary.

7:33 pm - We called it! We called it! We can state the obvious! Take that, Wolf Blitzer, you bearded wonder! Ha! Go ahead and wait for those polls in the Central time zone to close in 27 minutes. We're not letting anything get in our way.

7:54 pm - So... is it over yet? With 51% reporting, it's Romney with 48, Gingrich with 31, Santorum with 13, and Paul with 7. Needless to say, a huge lead for Mitt. I thought he'd win by 12 or 13, though the trend was suggesting even more, like 15.

RKB: Yes, this is over.

8:00 pm - Earlier today, I set the over/under for the call on Romney's win at 8:01 and 30 seconds. Are we there yet?

8:01 pm - And I also wrote this: "In case you weren't clear, it's (mostly) the money, stupid. Money, in short, wins." And so, in "honor" of Mitt's big win, here's Rush (once upon a time infatuated with Ayn Rand, though they are one of my favorite bands -- and maybe the greatest Canadian band ever) performing "Big Money":

Big money goes around the world
Big money underground
Big money got a mighty voice
Big money make no sound
Big money pull a million strings
Big money hold the prize
Big money weave a mighty web
Big money draw the flies

It's that old time religion
It's the kingdom they would rule
It's the fool on television
Getting paid to play the fool

8:04 pm - Congratulations, Mitt. You the man. And you're clearly the frontrunner (once again).

RKB: I know Newt said he would stay in for the long haul, but at about 18 points back with 65% reporting that will be hard to do. We all know that Gingrich is really good at ignoring his critics and shooting the messenger and all that, but it's starting to look more than a little sad.

8:21 pm - In case you missed it, Florida Republican wunderkind Marco Rubio said today that the winner of the Florida primary would be the nominee this fall. Hardly an out-on-a-limb prediction. He knew it would be Romney, and Romney is by far the likely nominee.

RKB: This is a WSJ clip discussing the gender gap between Gingrich and Romney. Guess which candidate women don't like? (Can't embed, but you can watch it here.)

RKB: Brit Hume on Fox is speculating about the extent to which Romney will want to turn his attention away from Gingrich and start focusing his attention on Obama. Of course, when he eased off on Newt in South Carolina, he got smoked. I guess it begs the question of when Romney will start to tack to the center to begin courting independents. That'll be hard to do as long as hardcore conservatives don't trust him. Quite a problem. But if Gingrich is mostly done, Romney will need a plan to start sounding more reasonable.

8:45 pm - Florida really does look like penis, doesn't it?

8:46 pm - With the rest of my family watching Glee (ugh), I'll hand it over to Richard to comment on Romney's victory speech...

RKB: Ann Romney is at the podium thanking the whole team. Blah, blah, blah. And then she intros her husband. Could this guy be more insincere? Romney says that a competitive nomination race doesn't divide Republicans, it prepares them. Well, no. Not when the attacks are on character.

Funny how no Republican ever mentions George W. Bush as the architect of the current economic mess. The nerve of these guys.

Romney is so full of shit.

Well, I guess we have our answer.Romney thinks the campaign against Obama starts now.

Romney is all about mindless, meaningless platitudes. What a mean-spirited idiot.

If Romney really is the best the GOP has to offer, Obama must be sleeping well these days. 

8:51 pm - Ditto. Have I mentioned that Romney's a privileged rich douchebag with a plutocratic sense of entitlement who will do and say anything for votes? Well, there you go. And that's the narrative that should attach itself to Romney through November.

8:53 pm - Sorry, maybe you expect us to comment on Romney without all the insults? That would be fine if he hadn't shown himself throughout this entire campaign to be a shameless liar pandering to GOP extremism with all his anti-Obama nonsense and otherwise turning himself into a soul-less "Mitt Romney" candidate who seems to stand for nothing but maximizing the wealth of the super-rich and getting himself elected. I mean, he said just yesterday he wishes he could claim he was Hispanic. How utterly pathetic is that?

RKB: Sarah Palin is on Fox right now (8:50 pm). She sounds bitter that Romeny's $17-million investment in Florida bought his success. She is saying that the process has not been "very attractive to the electorate." Palin is obviously lukewarm on Romney. She better get used to him. Man, she is so stupid ,but I guess she has her followers. I still can't believe anyone is fooled by this dolt. What a lot of nonesence from the former half-term governor of Alaska.

8:59 pm - Sure, but I can't argue with her assessment of how Romney won Florida. (I would just add that she isn't terribly "attractive to the electorate" either, including the Republican electorate.)

9:01 pm - Romney's up by 15 with 76% reporting, 47 to 32. Just what the likes of Nate Silver were saying. Needless to say, a big win, regardless of how he did it. Newt's lead in the national polls has been slipping, and there's little doubt that Mitt will now surge (the key and perhaps most overused word of this whole race, no?) into the lead.

9:07 pm - And now I turn it over to Richard again... 

RKB: Santorum is speaking from Colorado (?).

Santorum is thanking people for their support during his daughter's recent health problem. Nice to see people reminded that even politicians have lives and families. Nice touch by Santorum. Much as I hate Santorum's social conservatism, he sounds the most honest of the bunch. So, to that extent, he honestly holds values I hate.

Still, Santorum is generally a weak candidate. What a horrible field.

9:09 pm - I've thought the same about Santorum, particularly since his excellent speech the night of the Iowa caucuses (which he ended up winning, of course). I don't agree with him on... well, on pretty much anything, but there's no denying his general sincerity, which contrasts starkly with Romney's shameless dishonesty and Newt's bullying egomania.

RKB: And it certainly doesn't look like Santorum is getting out. Chris Matthews is suggesting that Santorum is angling for the VP job. Don't see that happening. There are a lot better choices.

9:13 pm - It's possible, but I agree. Unlikely. And while Santorum is certainly a bona fide social conservative, he's toxic to independents (and his name is just too much of a joke). Romney will have to appease the right with someone else: Ryan? Rubio? Haley? Jindal?

9:18 pm - And over to Richard again, who's watching and reporting so I don't have to...

RKB: Gingrich is now at the mic:

This will be a two-person race between Newt and the Massachusetts moderate is what he is saying.

He is saying that he will stay in as long as it takes. People power will defeat money power. When did the GOP become the party of poor people? Newt is calling it a "people's campaign." That's great. He's contrasting himself with Romney as the candidate of the establishment. Will anyone believe that Newt is a man of the people?

This stuff is red meat for the base, but rings hollow for independents. 

9:20 pm - For some of the base, sure. But Newt's attempt at populism won't fool many on the right. It's okay to be a Buchananite pitchfork populist (i.e., a lynch mob), but going after Big Money is just too... socialist? 

9:28 pm - Mitt's still up by 15. 

9:44 pm - And again... 

RKB: Ron Paul is in Nevada. At the mic now:

Paul's crowd is certainly enthusiastic, as is he. Pretty happy for a guy who just came in last place in Florida with a whopping 7%. Yes, it's all about personal liberty, whatever that means. Oh, I can't stand listening to Paul. Such a waste of time. I do like the idea of bringing our troops home and stopping "unwinnable, undeclared wars." I could get behind that. Otherwise, libertarians make me tired. They aren't even worth arguing with.

Ron Paul is also saying he will go all the way to convention.

9:46 pm - And so he will. It's not about winning for Paul, it's about his libertarian agenda/platform and making sure it's a core part of the GOP. (Note to Rep. Paul: It's not. Well, not really. The anti-tax stuff is, of course, but Republicans have no time for anti-imperialism and civil liberties these days. Even your anti-government views are a tad too out there for most in your party. Why not unite with Trump for a third-party run?)

9:52 pm - Uh-oh. Major drama! Mitt's lead has fallen all the way from 15 to 14. With 94% reporting he's ahead just 46 to 32. What does this mean? What can it mean? Is Mitt falling short of expectations? OMG! WTF? It's back on, baby, back... on!

10:17 pm - Kidding. Of course.

10:18 pm - That's about it for us. There's not much else to say tonight. But, as I peruse some live-blogging posts at other sites, let me quote from Wonkette, which offered up these extremely amusing observations earlier on this evening:

"Florida is a microcosm of America," we just heard one of the Romney and/or Gingrich spin-whores say on the MSNBC just now. Yes, because Florida is a limp dick dangling over a sex-slave resort in the Dominican Republic or whatever. Also, America is truly a symbol of America. Just look at the map, and look at it in profile. What you'll see is a morbidly obese man with a pinhead and a dangling, useless dongle, with a massive ass to the west and a couple of unloved children from his first or second marriage literally "out to sea." Anyway, how badly will Mittens beat the jewelry piglet tonight? Or will there be a surprise?

7:45 PM — Polls are closed in the "fancy part" of Florida, with the Jews and the Blacks and the Cubanos and the gay CIA retirees, while polls remain open for another fifteen minutes in the "Dukes of Hazard" part of Florida, with the angry 60-year-old thrice-divorced small-time property speculators fuming in their single-wides tonight. Which part of the state is "more American," anyway?

Good question. I go back and forth.

But it's certainly true that there's a divide in Florida just as there's a divide elsewhere -- if not quite as stark as Wonkette's humorous characterization of it. It's usually described as red state-blue state, but it's not so much a state-by-state divided, it's an urban-rural one, and we see this clearly in today's results. Romney is winning the largely urban and suburban counties, while Gingrich is winning the largely rural ones. (Santorum is doing better in the rural ridings, while Paul is fairly consistent all over the state.) Take Miami-Dade, for example. Mitt's up 61-26 over Newt there, with Santorum at 6. In Escambia, though, the state's westernmost county, up in the panhandle, Newt's up 39-35 over Mitt, with Santorum at 16. These are extremes, but they reflect what's going on all across the state.

10:35 pm - Okay, done. For now. We're all over this Republican race, and we'll have a lot more to come. Stay tuned.

Good night, everyone.

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