What We Learned: The Sunshine At the End of the Tunnel?
What we at The Hotline learned this week:
-- This was the week former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney will probably point to if he wins Florida and locks up the GOP nomination. Between a more aggressive debate performance, renewed attacks on former Speaker Newt Gingrich, and a somewhat more forward-looking stump speech, Romney got past his disappointing South Carolina finish, and could win the Sunshine State by double-digits, if his trajectory holds.
The big question for Romney going forward is whether his primary opponents will eventually rally around his campaign and how damaged he emerges from the primary. It's looking like the damage is relatively minimal. An NBC/WSJ poll showed Romney's fav/unfav at 31/36, with a lot of voters still forming their opinion of him. For comparison's sake, Bill Clinton's fav/unfav at this point in 1992 were underwater, and his fav/unfav was 34/46 as late as April 1992.
-- Gingrich has spent a lot of time this week hurling insults at his chief rival - capping off Friday assailing Romney's character in a new hard-hitting attack ad. The new line is a shift for the former Speaker, marking the first time Gingrich has questioned Romney's moral code. Releasing such a personal attack against Romney is a gamble for Gingrich. While it is possible Florida voters will respond to the allegations, the move only amps up the stakes for the Jan. 31 primary.
-- It's looking more and more like there will be a Democratic primary in the anticipated recall election of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker It's hard not to see a primary as a negative for Democrats' hopes of ousting Walker. The prospective candidates are mostly unknowns. They likely will spend weeks beating up on each other in the primary, while Walker continues to flood the airwaves with ads touting his legislative record. If Democrats could recruit a field-clearing, high profile candidate (paging Sen. Herb Kohl), they'd be in better shape.
-- On the surface, the 2012 North Carolina governor's race mirrors the 2007 Louisiana governor's race - A female Democratic governor retires after a single term, rather than face a rematch against a Republican she narrowly beat 4 years earlier. But Pat McCrory can hardly expect to waltz into the governorship with the same ease that Bobby Jindal did. Fundamentally, Louisiana is a much more Republican state than the Tarheel State, giving John McCain 59 percent of its votes in 2008, compared to just 49% in North Carolina. And by 2007, Louisiana Republicans had started their march towards capturing every constitutional office in the state, while Democrats today still control 8 of the 10 state offices in North Carolina.