Mitt Romney is mad.
Wouldn't you be mad if you had double digit lead in the polls in South Carolina only to squander that lead in a matter of days and then lose to Newt Gingrich by twelve points?
Wouldn't you be kicking yourself not releasing your tax returns even though your top advisers had exhorted you to do so?
This is not where Mitt Romney expected to be going into the Florida Primary. He was supposed to have gone three for three in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. Instead with only the Granite state in his pocket, Romney has entered the Sunshine State facing his winter of discontent.
So now Romney is going after Gingrich with everything he's got. In light of the fact that Romney will soon release his tax returns, he is accusing Gingrich of "potentially wrongful activity of some kind" by not registering as a lobbyist for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, called upon him to return compensation he received from Fannie & Freddie and for good measure called him "highly erratic." You can be sure that Romney will be raising this and then some during the two Florida debates this week.
While these charges might once again raise doubts about the former House Speaker, will it necessarily benefit Romney? After all, Romney is telling Republican primary voters why they shouldn't vote for Gingrich. But it doesn't tell them why they should cast their fate with him. After all, when the Romney PAC went after Gingrich, it ended up benefitting Rick Santorum.
So therein lay the problem. What is the raison d'être of Romney's candidacy? Well, his main selling point has been his experience in the private sector. Yet when that experience is challenged, Romney displays the kind of thin skin reminiscent of President Obama. Romney equates criticism of his time at Bain Capital with criticism of free enterprise itself. That Romney considers his private sector record beyond question is a strong indication that he treats the Republican nomination as if it were an entitlement. And here we thought Romney wanted to earn his way to the nomination. At the very minimum, he has to do more than earn it in New Hampshire.
Frankly, aside from a clear cut victory in the Granite State, the only thing Romney has earned during this campaign is suspicion from many Republican primary voters. His reluctance to release his tax returns gave suspicion that he was being evasive and had something to hide. Romney also earned suspicion when he said he enjoyed firing people who provided services to him. Yeah, yeah, I know he was referring to health care providers. But is it really a stretch of the imagination to believe he also enjoyed firing people while he was at Bain? At the very minimum, these were not very carefully chosen words and he said them far too casually. In a time of high unemployment, are those struggling to make ends meet going to trust the economy in the hands of someone who derives any kind of enjoyment out of firing people?
Of course, Romney continues to earn suspicion from Republican primary voters for being a conservative of convenience. It is all well and good for Romney to extol Ronald Reagan's virtues and to say he wants America "to remain the shining city on the hill." But when he was running against Ted Kennedy here in Massachusetts in 1994, Romney wanted absolutely nothing to do with Reagan when he said, "I was an independent during the time of Reagan-Bush. I'm not trying to return to Reagan-Bush." While one can criticize Newt Gingrich for being at odds with conservatives at various points over the years, he led Republicans to a majority in the House of Representatives and no one can take that away from him however some might try. And where was Romney while Newt was championing the Contract With America? He was calling it a "not a good idea" and a "mistake."
I understand that Mitt Romney is angry at Newt Gingrich for stealing his thunder in South Carolina. But while Romney directs his anger at the former Speaker, Newt will be content to direct his anger at President Obama and the liberal media who protect him. If Romney isn't careful and lets his anger towards Newt get the better of him, he could help clear a path for Newt to the White House even more than he has already.