Mitt Romney may have regained momentum and earned an air of electability following his victory in the Florida Republican primary, but a top Obama strategist says the tactics and message Romney displayed won’t fly in a national campaign.
“Team Romney wants voters and the national media to believe its victory reflects its candidate’s positions,” deputy Obama campaign manager Stephanie Cutter wrote in a memo to reporters Wednesday.
“In reality, it is a product of the fact that Romney and his SuperPAC allies carpet-bombed Gingrich by spending five times as much money on Florida’s airwaves, and running more than 60 television ads for every one Gingrich and his allies aired,” she said.
Romney and affiliated outside groups did spend more than $15 million on TV ads, according to Kantar Media’s CMAG, which closely tracks campaign spending. Most were negative attacks against rival candidates Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum.
The group reported that less than 0.1 percent of political ads that aired in Florida over the past week were positive Romney ads, while more than 68 percent were attack ads against Gingrich.
“It’s difficult for Romney to claim Floridians voted for him rather than against his opponents,” Cutter concluded.
The memo highlights a slew of recent polling data, including the Florida primary exit poll, to highlight that many voters — from independents to mainstream Republicans — have become less enthusiastic about their choice of candidates, including Romney, suggesting the former governor’s strategy may be “backfiring.”
Still, Romney’s victory in Florida provides some evidence that the strategy has done anything but backfire — a potential warning sign for Obama with the general election quickly drawing near.
Romney won big by going negative against his opponents, and thanks to major ad spending from outside groups — all while overcoming negative-campaigning criticism at the same time.
Sixty-five percent of Florida voters said they’d be satisfied with Romney as the Republican nominee, according to the exit poll of Republican primary goers — a figure in line with national polls that show many GOPers believe Romney has the best chance to beat Obama.
Romney’s decisive victory among a diverse electorate also demonstrated that he can still muster organizational firepower and attract and retain early-deciding voters, per ABC pollster Gary Langer.
Romney garnered “much more positive personal appeal than his top competitors; a sharp gender gap for the first time this year, with far greater support among women; fewer evangelicals, a group in which he’s struggled; lots of seniors; and, in another first for the GOP in 2012, a substantial number of minority voters,” Langer said.
Cutter and Team Obama — who have for months been preparing to take on Romney, who is seen as their most formidable and likely general election challenger — insist the conclusion of the Florida primary is not the de facto start of the general election campaign.
Instead, they’re expecting — and hoping — the tumultuous and politically bruising GOP primary process will go on for a little bit longer.
“The 2012 Republican presidential primary has been unpredictable, and the format and timing of the process favors a prolonged fight for the Republican nomination,” Cutter says in the memo.
“Even after the February contests, only 15 percent of delegates will be awarded. No candidate has a chance to mathematically secure the nomination until at least April,” she asserts.
UPDATE: Romney campaign spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg emailed the following response to the Cutter memo:
“Three years ago today, President Obama said if he couldn’t fix the economy that he would be facing a one-term proposition. So it’s no wonder that with Gov. Romney coming off a big victory in a must-win general election state that the White House would be worried about having to face Gov. Romney and be held accountable for President Obama’s failures.”