It’s obvious what Mitt Romney’s advisers decided to do in Florida. In order to prevent fatal wounding by a thousand cuts over a period of months, they elected to win quick and, if necessary, to win dirty. Yes, in the short run, those suffering the nine-day scorched-earth lead-in to the Florida primary might conclude that Romney was, as Newt put it, ruthlessly “carpet-bombing” with negative ads and presenting nothing positive about his own vision for America. But negative advertising has been proven over and over again to work, even though voters claim to dislike it. By November, general election voters wouldn’t even recall the Florida ugliness, so went the reasoning.
With attackers from his own party out of the way, Romney would have the luxury of attacking only President Obama (always a crowd pleaser), and unveiling his own rationale for wanting to be president (we’re still waiting).
Romney’s people weren’t counting on the durability of Newt’s rage. Had Romney won in an honest, clean way, Newt might have gracefully folded his tent and offered his support in exchange for a juicy cabinet post. But they also knew that Romney’s support was so lukewarm that he ran a high risk of losing unless he went nasty.
Had they studied their history, Romney’s advisers would remember that they were dealing with a man who became so miffed at being seated in the back of Bill Clinton’s Air Force One that he shut down the country in retaliation. They kicked him too hard and too often, and now he’s going to worry at Romney’s heels like a rabid terrier all the way to the Tampa convention, and maybe beyond.
This primary reminds me of one of the Godfather movies, when Michael Corleone visits the village of his father’s birth in Sicily for the first time. He notices that there are only women to be seen in the town. “Where are all the men?” he asks his guide.
“All dead from vendettas,” the guide answers.