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Mitt Can't Close the Sale with Conservatives

POSTED:

Mitt Romney scored an important win over Newt Gingrich in yesterday's Florida primary, and comes away with his erstwhile aura of inevitability restored. However, look at the exit poll numbers and you see a more mixed picture for the GOP frontrunner. On one hand, Romney's new get-tough approach and bare-knuckle attack ads worked; voters who said campaign advertising impacted their decision chose Romney 2 to 1, and 40 percent of voters held a generally unfavorable view of Gingrich. But, notes E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post, right-wing voters apparently haven't "made their peace with [Romney]," since self-identified "very conservative" voters chose Gingrich 4 to 3. "He's more conservative than Mitt Romney," a voter in Pensacola told reporters, "and the problem I have with Mitt Romney is that he's jumped the fence back and forth a couple of times. I believe in conservative values." [Washington Post, The Ledger]

In other campaign news:

If you didn't know this already, the 2012 elections will be dominated by big donors and super PAC spending, writes Politico's Kenneth P. Vogel. The Tuesday release of super PAC filings by the Federal Election Commission "revealed a roster of deep-pocketed individuals, corporations and – on the Democratic side, unions hoping to influence the presidential and congressional elections with massive contributions." [Politico]

Post-Florida, Romney is now working towards the so-called "February trifecta:" Saturday's Nevada caucus and the Arizona and Michigan primaries on February 28. If Romney pulls off three victories, "it could become exceedingly difficult for Newt Gingrich to rely on the subsequent March 6 Super Tuesday contests as a platform for yet another comeback" and give Romney "a sense of unalterable momentum," writes Scott Conroy of RealClearPolitics. [RealClearPolitics]

• Michele Bachmann may be getting ready to endorse Romney. The Minnesota congresswoman denies that talks are afoot between her camp and Romney's, but Glen Johnson of the Boston Globe points out possible benefits for both candidates. Not only would a Bachmann endorsement help Romney among evangelicals and abortion opponents, but Romney could benefit Bachmann too, "by earning her an ally to help her pay off her lingering campaign debt." [Boston Globe]

Romney had another patented out-of-touch moment this morning on CNN, saying he's "not concerned about the very poor." What he meant was that he's focusing on America's middle class, since, unlike the very poor, they can't rely on the safety net of Medicaid and other programs for the neediest. Then again, as Rolling Stone's Tim Dickinson points out, if Romney becomes president he plans to shred that same safety net, so you have to conclude he really isn't concerned about the poor.  [RealClearPolitics, Rolling Stone]

• Obama's new plan for reviving the flagging housing market stands to bolster his campaign as 2012 heats up. Under the proposal, borrowers who are current on their mortgages can refinance into lower-interest government-backed loans. Whether it passes through Congress or not, the bill could show Americans that "Republicans are the party standing between you and a lower rate on your mortgage," Jeb Mason, a Treasury policy adviser in the Bush administration, told reporters. [Wall Street Journal]

• What happens to candidates' (uncoordinate!) super PAC money after they drop out of the race?  Jon Hudson of Atlantic Wire asked election lawyers and found that, while many super PACs continue operating as general interest groups, they are allowed to use the leftover funds for personal expenditures. "I could accept a yacht from a super PAC, for example," said one election lawyer. [Atlantic Wire]

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