Erick Erickson:Mitt certainly seems to have a better get out the vote effort than John McCain ever had, and that could really pay off in November when he has to battle the Obama effort that will be paid for and managed by the unions. Organization is a big deal in a national campaign and so far Romney seems to have a pretty good one.
If I were a national Republican operative, I'd be very worried about tonight. If I were a Mitt Romney fan, I'd be ecstatic.
The Romney win in Florida was huge. He won the hispanic vote. He split tea party activists and evangelicals. He won where people live. Gingrich won the panhandle and largely tied in the few northern Florida population centers, but it was Romney's night.
He is on the way toward the nomination. The fat lady is warming up. But it is not a done deal yet. He still has a fractured base and lost the heart of the base. He has trouble with tea party activists and evangelicals though he roughly tied with Gingrich in capturing their support, and he has trouble with strong conservatives. Nonetheless, his get out the vote operation was a phenomenal success and the 15 to 1 advertising ratio in his favor clinched it for him. . . .
It is worth nothing that in the last week of the race only 0.1% of advertising was pro-Romney and roughly 70% was anti-Gingrich.
Our Robert Costa wonders if Romney's negative ads enraged Gingrich so much that Romney's top rival now has no other desire than vengeance:
Remember, in Florida, Team Romney didn't just knock Gingrich; they aired an ad that selectively documented the Georgian's past. Citing ethics allegations, they tarred Gingrich as a "disgraced" speaker, but they neglected to mention that Gingrich was later exonerated by the IRS.
The Sunshine State slams kept coming. Gingrich's work for Freddie Mac as a "historian," enough to sour any Florida homeowner, was complemented by 30-second spots calling Gingrich "chaotic" and "unreliable." On the stump, Romney called Gingrich a "pinball machine." At debates he called him an "influence peddler."
"When attacked, you have to respond," Romney explained earlier today. "It would be wonderful if campaigns were nothing but positive, but that's certainly not the reality."
One can argue whether those actions were "negative" or fair punches in a rough-and-tumble contest. But as the primary moves west and the field remains the same, the consequences of Romney's Florida brawl are unpredictable.
If Romney isn't careful, a wounded, bloodied Gingrich may be more dangerous than a slow Gingrich fade.
Newt's path to the nomination is now pretty much gone and the only thing he has left is tearing down Romney. That might make Romney a tougher candidate in the long run, but it also will undermine Romney's support with the conservative base, a group that's already troubled by his candidacy. Romney did win the conservative vote in Florida, and maybe he's got more strength with them than we realize right now.