January 31, 2012 at 9:46 pm
By Bartholomew Sullivan and Melissa Holsman
Local political experts say they weren’t surprised by Tuesday’s Republican Presidential Preference Primary.
Robert Watson, professor of American Studies at Lynn University, said all the signs pointed to a former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney victory, even though former House Speaker Newt Gingrich surged in the polls following his win in South Carolina.
“Newt pummeled Romney in the debates; Romney’s tax questions came out . . . Newt surged ahead in the polls here in Florida, and Newt’s debate audiences were going wild, so about two weeks ago, after two years of Romney being comfortably in the front, it started to change,” Watson said. “But sure enough Romney’s advantage ended up far too much for Gingrich. On one hand Romney had more money and on the other hand he had better organization. He had more super PAC spending on his behalf and he had key endorsements here in Florida.
“So everything you look at to try and predict elections, ultimately every single thing fell in liine with arrows pointing toward Mitt Romney.”
Watson said in Florida, since 1960, every candidate who has won Florida in the primary won the presidency.
“Once again it looks like we’re the Kingmaker in primaries and this November, we could be the Kingmaker again,” Watson said, predicting Romney will win the Party’s nomination.
“I think it’s done,” he said. “Again if you go back to all the things that we use to predict the winners: endorsements, money, momentum, organization, everything points to Romney.”
U.S. Rep. Bill Posey, R-Rockledge, who hasn’t endorsed anyone, said he suspected Romney would win Florida.
“It’s not a big shock . . . it’s a little bit wider margin statewide than I had anticipated,” he said. “I thought it would be a little closer.”
With the Space Coast in Posey’s district, he said he was especially tuned into what the candidates were saying about space. He wasn’t thrilled by what he heard, Posey said.
“I was hoping to see them discuss space in a little bit more depth,” he said. “I was a little bit disappointed that none of them talked about the national security implications of space. This was the ideal format for the rest of the world to stop and take a moment to realize or maybe think about what life would be like if we didn’t dominate space. You don’t have a cell phone, you don’t get a weather report, you can’t use a credit card.”
“So I was hoping it would be a bigger part of the debates, and instead it ended up talking about Romney making fun of Gingrich talking about exploration of the moon, and it just got off topic,” he said. “And I’m real disappointed in that part.”
“There were a number of decisive factors,” said Kevin Lanning, professor of psychology and political science at Florida Atlantic University’s Wilkes Honors College in Jupiter. “You could point to the money spent or the demographic difference between Florida and South Carolina or (former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt) Romney’s rebounding in the debates.
“For me, the interesting question is whether the turnout is depressed compared to what it would have been” without the negative campaigning, he said. If the impact on voter turnout in a negative campaign is significant, it could have a bearing on turnout in November, he said.
“It has been a shockingly negative campaign — a very personal campaign,” Lanning said.
The result of so much negative imagery has been a net drop in approval ratings. But Lanning said it doesn’t matter that Romney is winning with a plurality of the vote and not getting a decisive 50 percent-plus because the margin between him and Gingrich is large.
“This is a big win for Romney,” he said.
Palm City resident Dennis Fano, a volunteer for the Santorum campaign, said he was “disappointed, of course,” but thinks the former Pennsylvania senator will pick up steam “if the money holds out.”
Fano is convinced that the longer Santorum is in the race the more he will resonate with people.
“He doesn’t waver; he stands for something: family. Values,” Fano said.
And since he’s still relatively young, Fano said he may be considered as a vice presidential candidate or try his luck again in four years.
“Ronald Reagan didn’t make it the first time,” Fano noted. “Neither did Abraham Lincoln.”
Stuart resident Derick Jochem, chair of the Martin County Mitt Romney campaign, said despite moving up the primary date, volunteers were prepared with “groundwork” throughout the county.
“They did a lot of work on short notice,” he said, “and I’m happy with the results.”
He said it’s not necessarily a bad thing if the race goes long, even if the candidates “are a little hostile toward each other…Whoever gets the nomination had better be tough-skinned,” he said.