Posted on | January 29, 2012 | 67 Comments
Mitt Romney at Naples rally, Sunday, Jan. 29, 2012
Attention young conservatives: Your grandma loves Mitt Romney.
The phenomenal shift in the polls here in the Sunshine State — which has provoked much commentary and analysis about “strategy” and “messaging” — may in fact be little more complicated than that. And the massive crowd that turned out in downtown Naples today to hear and see Mitt was certainly evidence of how real Romney’s Florida surge is.
This photo was shot from the camera platform, looking back toward Fifth Avenue, and the crowd overflowed in all directions. The camera platform was about 150 feet from the stage, and the area between the platform and the stage was likewise packed to overflowing. While I’m not an expert at estimating crowd sizes, I can say with confidence that this crowd was what the experts call ginormous.
OK, so what’s Mitt’s secret? Let me put it in the simplest possible terms: Sex appeal. This will elicit a groan from ideologues who have spent the past year proclaiming that Mitt is a gutless flip-flopper, the worst RINO in the history of RINO-dom. Yet if you set aside mere politics long enough to see the two Florida frontrunners as the average Republican voter sees them, it is hard to miss the contrast between Mitt — the tall, lean multimillionaire entrepreneur with dark hair and chiseled features — and Newt, the pudgy intellectual.
Maybe you don’t judge presidential candidates by such standards, but it makes a lot of difference to Republican grandmas, and there are lots of Republican grandmas in Florida. And here’s some video that helps explain a little more of Newt’s problem with the affluent residents of retirement communities in the state that has been dubbed “God’s Waiting Room”:
“There was a time back in high school that a girl I knew in elementary school became much more interesting. You see, Ann and I went to the same elementary school. She was in second grade, I was in fourth. I didn’t notice her then. But when she was just about 16, I noticed in a big way. We were at a party together at a friend’s house. She had come with someone else. I went to her date and I said, ‘Look, I live closer to Ann than you do. Can I give her a ride home for you?’ He said, ‘Sure.’ We’ve been going steady ever since. My sweetheart, Ann Romney.”
After Mitt said that, I walked over to talk to another reporter, whose comment was: “Zing! He’s killing him!”
You see? Mitt didn’t even have to name Newt in order to emphasize the contrast: Mitt’s still with his high-school sweetheart, with whom he’s been “going steady” since 1965, while Newt is on Wife No. 3, with whom he had an affair while still married to Wife No. 2.
Maybe if you’re under 40, that kind of thing doesn’t matter much — Who are we to judge? — but to your mother or grandmother, raised on old-fashioned “family values” conservatism, it matters a lot. Put yourself in Grandma’s orthopedic shoes when she reads a headline like this:
Whoa! Newt wants to talk about “character”? Ever heard an old proverb about glass houses, Mister Speaker? Those grannies in Florida aren’t buying your act. And if my ideological under-40 readers don’t mind, this is perhaps an appropriate time to quote the esteemed founder of The American Spectator, R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr.:
Newt, like Bill, has a proclivity for girl hopping. It is not as egregious as Bill’s, but then Newt is not as drop-dead beautiful. His public record is already besmeared with tawdry divorces, and there are private encounters with the fair sex that doubtless will come out. If I have heard of some, you can be sure the Democrats have heard of more.
Forgive my editor for his unseemly insinuation, but rest assured that Bob Tyrrell is certainly not the only conservative who has “heard of some.” There are other conservatives — people whose names you would recognize — who have made similar intimations to me.
Michelle Malkin has never said any such thing, but have you ever wondered why she hates Newt so much? I have.
The problem, as I see it, is that so many True Conservatives have allowed themselves to be persuaded that the frontrunner fight between Mitt and Newt represents the only choice in this election. But while I was at the Romney rally, I encounted two women — including Naples city council woman Teresa Heitman — who say that Florida voters should consider another candidate:
As the lady says, “family commitment comes first” for Rick Santorum, which point Steve Ertelt of LifeNews emphasizes:
Bella Santorum was admitted to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Saturday night because she has pneumonia in both of her lungs, according to campaign aides. . . .
Former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, on Sunday afternoon, tweeted a message of support for the Santorum family.
“Thank you, Rick and Karen Santorum, for living the Christ-like example of sacrifice and right priorities. Nothing is more precious or important than the life of an innocent child. Our prayers are with Bella, a perfect child in an imperfect world,” she said. “God bless the beautiful Santorum family.”
Dan Collins knows what the cynics will say:
It is not too late, I would argue, for those True Conservatives who have convinced themselves that Newt is The Only Alternative to Mitt to change their minds and reconsider the possibility of supporting a Republican candidate who lives his conservative principles.
RICK SANTORUM for PRESIDENT
Join the Fight!
Update (Smitty): Welcome, Instapundit readers!