On a day that should have been a triumphant march from Florida, where he scored a decisive victory in Tuesday's primary, to Nevada, where he looks poised to come out on top in that state's "first in the West" caucuses on Saturday, it was yet again a tale of two Mitt Romneys.
There was the Mitt Romney who arrived in Las Vegas last night and delivered a forceful rebuke of the Obama administration's plan for withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Afghanistan in 2013.
"The president's mistakes - some of them are calculated on a philosophy that's hard to understand - and sometimes, you scratch you head and say, 'how can he be so misguided and so naive?'" Romney said in his remarks to a warehouse full of cheering supporters. http://abcn.ws/AydQH5
But there was also the Mitt Romney who gave an interview to CNN just hours after his defeat of Newt Gingrich in Florida in which he said, "I'm not concerned about the very poor."
That interview dogged him throughout the day, and while a chorus of Democrats seized on the remark, more telling were the many Republicans who also weighed in to criticize Romney, including arch-conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh who said the comment made the former Massachusetts governor look like "the prototypical rich Republican."
It was of a piece with many of Romney's previous statements that sounded similarly out of touch (think "corporations are people," the $10,000 bet and "I like being able to fire people").
But as ABC's Jake Tapper noted on "Good Morning America," on paper, it looks as if the "stars are aligned for Mitt Romney to have a great February." (More on Jake's take on the GOP race: http://abcn.ws/yOR9Lz)
A new Las Vegas Review Journal Nevada poll out today showed Romney a full 20 percentage points ahead of Gingrich in the state, 45 percent to 25 percent. Trailing behind were Rick Santorum (11 percent) and Ron Paul (9 percent). http://bit.ly/wu0gaF
Of the next six states where voters will go to the polls, Romney won five of them in 2008. Every time he can scoop up more delegates, the case for his inevitability as the GOP nominee seems more and more airtight.
Bottom line: The only thing stopping Mitt Romney from cruising to the nomination is Mitt Romney.
In Las Vegas, ABC's David Muir reports on the prospects for Romney there. WATCH: http://abcn.ws/ziTyRE
VIDEO OF THE DAY: POLITICALLY FOUL. ABC's John Berman blows the whistle on the political plays of the week - including the "Eye of the Tiger" suing Gingrich, McCain "attacking" the liberal media and one adorable Romney grandkid playing politics. http://yhoo.it/Aq4dJ5
MASSACHUSETTS GOVERNOR INKS BOOK DEAL. Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick inked a deal with Hyperion to publish two books, one of which will be released in May, ahead of the November elections, ABC's Huma Khan notes. The first, to be a short eBook, will focus on Patrick's vision of the country. A democrat first elected in 2006, Patrick will build "on his already established social media platforms to engage in conversation with readers," for the book, to be titled "Faith in the Dream: A Call to Our Nation's Liberal Majority to Restore American Values," according to a press release. "Together, we can expand on a new vision for America, in conversation with concerned voters," Patrick, the state's first African-American governor, now serving his second term, said in the release. "I want to hear from the American people about their faith in the American dream and promise." The second, as-yet-untitled book will be released in 2014, as both an eBook and print copy. (Hyperion is a unit of the Disney/ABC-Television Group, which is part of The Walt Disney Company.) http://abcn.ws/zpD43X
CAN MITT ROMNEY WOO CONSERVATIVES? "Having won primaries in New Hampshire and Florida, Mitt Romney's chances of becoming the GOP's standard bearer seem likely enough to provoke speculation about his post-nomination efforts. But Romney still struggles with the GOP's most conservative 'tea party' voters," writes The Daily Caller's Matt Lewis. "This problem will have to be rectified either before - or after - Romney wins the nomination. Conservatives are the strongest ideological faction in America today. And so the question lingers: Getting the band back together; If David St. Hubbins and Nigel Tufnel can do it, why not Mitt and the tea party? Most people I talked to believe it's doable. Ed Gillespie, a movement conservative who also served as RNC chairman, believes there are three major moments which Romney can use to persuade conservatives: The GOP convention, the vice presidential pick, and the debates. Most observers believe the veep choice is most significant." http://thedc.com/wVE1x0
RON PAUL AND ROMNEY STRIKE 'STRATEGIC ALLIANCE.' "Despite deep differences on a range of issues, Romney and Paul became friends in 2008, the last time both ran for president. So did their wives, Ann Romney and Carol Paul. The former Massachusetts governor compliments the Texas congressman during debates, praising Paul's religious faith during the last one, in Jacksonville, Fla.," the Washington Post's Amy Gardner reports. "The Romney-Paul alliance is more than a curious connection. It is a strategic partnership: for Paul, an opportunity to gain a seat at the table if his long-shot bid for the presidency fails; for Romney, a chance to gain support from one of the most vibrant subgroups within the Republican Party. Romney's aides are "quietly in touch with Ron Paul," according to a Republican adviser who is in contact with the Romney campaign and spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss its internal thinking. The two campaigns have coordinated on minor things, the adviser said - even small details, such as staggering the timing of each candidate's appearance on television the night of the New Hampshire primary for maximum effect. One advantage for Romney is that Paul's presence in the race helps keep the GOP electorate fractured. But there is also a growing recognition that the congressman plans to stay in the contest over the long term - and that accommodating him and his supporters could help unify Republican voters in the general election against President Obama." http://wapo.st/xl0wUx
HOW GABBY GIFFORDS COULD HELP OBAMA IN ARIZONA. "President Obama is eyeing Arizona as one of the few Republican states he might flip in November, but to do that he might need the help of its brightest star: former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords," The Hill's Russell Berman notes. "Whether Giffords will lend her considerable clout to the president's reelection campaign remains an open - and exceedingly delicate - question. Giffords resigned her House seat last week, a little over a year after she suffered a gunshot wound to the head while speaking to constituents. She has vowed to return to public service after recuperating more from her injuries, and that could include a future run for office in Arizona. Democrats in Arizona say there is no doubt that if Giffords became involved in Obama's campaign, she could boost his chances of capturing a state that gave its 10 electoral votes to favorite son Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in 2008. McCain won it comfortably, by 8.5 points. 'Gabby Giffords campaigning with anybody could help. Anybody,' said Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), who heads the House Democrats' campaign arm." http://bit.ly/y1v8U3
MEET THE COMPANIES BEHIND THE SUPER PACS, from ABC's Chris Good: http://abcn.ws/yLP0iG
FROM THE DESK OF THE NEVADA GOP: The Nevada Republican Party announced it had recruited over 3,500 caucus volunteers registered as of yesterday morning. "Republicans are not only energized and excited about this weekend's caucus, they're excited about putting Nevada in the Republican win column this November," Nevada GOP Chairman Amy Tarkanian said in a statement. "Our impressive volunteer numbers for the caucus are just another indication that Nevadans are ready to make Barack Obama a one-term president."
@jaketapper : POTUS three years ago today: "If I don't have this done in three years, then there's going to be a one-term proposition."
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