Analysis: Republican Romney Back On Track In White House Race

Less than a week after a stinging setback in South Carolina, Romney moved ahead of rival Newt Gingrich again in Florida polls on Thursday and turned in his strongest debate performance yet in a seesawing Republican presidential race.

Three new polls showed Romney taking a solid 7- or 8-point lead in Florida hours before his confident and aggressive debate performance put Gingrich on the defensive repeatedly in their final showdown ahead of Tuesday's state primary.

But a Florida victory for Romney would put him in a strong position to capture the nomination, with the primary map tilting in his favor in February with contests in seven states where he has the potential advantage.

"If Mitt Romney wins in Florida, he'll be on cruise control all the way to Super Tuesday," Republican strategist Ford O'Connell said. Nine states hold contests on "Super Tuesday," on March 6.

"Florida is a make-or-break state for Gingrich because he needs to win to get his momentum back and restock his campaign coffers," O'Connell said. "He is spending everything he's got to compete with Romney in Florida."

Read more from John Whitesides at Reuters

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Ford O'Connell Discusses Obama's Re-Election Strategy, The Hispanic Vote And The Florida #GOP Primary

Ford O'Connell and Democratic Strategist Davide Mercer join Fox News' Chris Stirewalt on Fox News Live's Power Play to discuss President Obama's re-election strategy in the Southwest and Midwest, the role of the Hispanic vote in 2012, the bare knuckle brawl between Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich in the Florida GOP primary and why the Republican 2012 primary calendar favors Romney after Florida. 

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Florida Is Do Or Die For Newt Gingrich

A loss in Florida would certainly be a devastating blow for Romney and could send the Republic establishment into a Chernobyl-like meltdown, possibly even scrambling to find a replacement candidate at the last minute, as former McCain presidential campaign adviser Steve Schmidt and others have suggested. And while many on the liberal left would love to see chaos ensue among the right, the reality of the situation is that Romney, whose campaign is fashioned for the long haul, can technically afford to suffer another defeat in this round, whereas for Gingrich, losing in Florida could put him down for the count.

Read more from Ford O'Connell at U.S. News & World Report

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Ford O'Connell At Politico's Arena: 'Is Newt's Moon Colony Idea Out To Lunch?'

Many Floridians see NASA as a vital cog in the Sunshine State’s economy and a key ingredient of American exceptionalism. Let us not forget that when President Obama chose to take the nation’s space program in a “new direction,” the state’s entire congressional delegation gave him more than an earful.

Is Newt Gingrich pandering for votes? Let’s put it this way, in an effort to hold off Mitt Romney, the former House Speaker is leaving no rock unturned, both in Florida and in outer space.

Read more from Ford O'Connell at Politico's "The Arena"

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Has Gingrich Lost Momentum In Florida?

Newt Gingrich is trailing Mitt Romney in the Real Clear Politics polling average ahead of the Jan. 31 Florida Republican presidential primary. It seems that Gingrich is losing momentum from his decisive victory in South Carolina last week. This could of course change, if Gingrich has a great debate performance tonight in Jacksonville, Florida. FiveThirtyEight's Nate Silver chimes in:

[I]t looks as though Mr. Gingrich’s surge may have reached its apogee over the weekend — timed perfectly for his big win in South Carolina, but not necessarily for one in Florida next week.

Meanwhile, some of the anecdotal evidence still seems quite favorable for Mr. Gingrich: he has drawn much larger crowds than Mr. Romney to his events in Florida, for instance, which could be a sign that his voters are more enthusiastic and more likely to turn out.

And yet, that volatility suggests that even if Mr. Gingrich has lost the momentum, he might easily regain it again — for instance, if he performs well at the next debate on Thursday.

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Obama's State Of The Union Failed

The president may call his speech a "blueprint," but the design rests on a flawed foundation. The solution to America's economic troubles lies not in further taxing the rich, but in simplifying our nation's convoluted tax code. If we cut the corporate tax rate in half, jobs will return. And if we close the loopholes embedded within the individual and corporate tax codes, we will generate the revenue necessary to pay down the debt and to support important government programs. In a nutshell, it is really that simple, but for some reason Republicans have a difficult time articulating this.

Read more from Ford O'Connell at U.S. News & World Report

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Tampa Debate: Newt Gingrich Could Face His Freddie Mac Moment

One would think that after 17 GOP presidential debates, everything the remaining candidates have to say has already been said.

Hardly. In fact, debate No. 18 -- Monday at 9 p.m., Eastern time, in Tampa, Fla., airing on NBC – is the most important yet. The campaign of Mitt Romney, coming off a crushing defeat Saturday in the South Carolina primary, is in crisis. Newt Gingrich, the victor in South Carolina by 12 points and now solidly ahead in the latest polls out of Florida, faces fresh scrutiny of his record and temperament.

The other two candidates on stage, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul, will also play a role – both in promoting themselves and in softening up the two leaders.

Most under the gun is Mr. Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts. He has to clean up his message and generate passion, says Republican strategist Ford O’Connell. By promising to release his 2010 and 2011 tax returns on Tuesday, Romney at least moves off his defensive posture of the past two debates.

But he has to get back to making a positive case for himself, both in tone and substance. “The best way for Mitt to generate passion is by making a winning argument, something he has not done in five years of campaigning,” says Mr. O’Connell, who advised the McCain campaign in 2008.

“Routinely touting corporate experience and one's understanding of the economy while dispensing hollow phrases like ‘Believe in America’ aren’t going to cut it, and frankly they don't motivate anyone to do anything,” O’Connell says. “He needs to start by changing his message and focus it on bigger ideas like curbing entitlements and dealing with the debt.”

Read more from Linda Feldmann at The Christian Science Monitor

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Ford O'Connell At Politico's Arena: 'Is Newt Gingrich An Embarrassment?'

Some may claim that Gingrich is an embarrassment and others may contend the former House Speaker is not a conservative, but for now, that is not the issue. This is about Mitt Romney’s inability to generate a passionate narrative on the campaign trail, despite his superb credentials.

Routinely touting corporate experience and one’s understanding of the economy while dispensing hollow phrases like "Believe in America" aren’t going to cut it, and frankly they don’t motive anyone to do anything. Romney needs to start by changing his message and focusing it on more “grandiose” ideas like curbing entitlements and dealing with the debt, as The Weekly Standard’s Fred Barnes suggests.

If Romney fails to acquire a new, more impassioned message, Gingrich is likely to continue surging irrespective of his past.

Read more from Ford O'Connell at Politico's "The Arena"

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Gingrich Surges In Florida, Tied With Romney Nationally

Two new polls show former House Speaker Newt Gingrich with significant leads ahead of next week's Florida GOP presidential primary.

The latest poll from Rasmussen Reports (released 1/23/11) has Gingrich up nine on Mitt Romney, while Insider Advantage (released 1/22/11) gives the Gingrich an eight point lead on Romney.

Additionally the latest Gallup national GOP presindetial survey (released 1/23/11) has Romney (29%) and Gingrich (28%) in a dead heat.

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Florida Rolls Out The Hot Seat For Primary

The battle for the Republican presidential nomination shifted to Florida Sunday hotter and more unpredictable than ever and vastly different than expected just days ago.

With Newt Gingrich’s huge victory in South Carolina, the race has never been more unsettled, leaving Florida poised once again to play a decisive role in determining the real frontrunner to take on President Barack Obama in November.

It’s a shocking turn compared to a week ago, when former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney seemed to have the nomination in hand. Romney thought he had won the first two states and held a strong lead in South Carolina. But in short order, a recount in Iowa declared Rick Santorum the winner there, and South Carolina gave Gingrich a surprise blowout victory.

“Florida just became relevant again,” said Ford O’Connell, a former adviser to Sen. John McCain’s 2008 campaign.

If Gingrich wins Florida and its 50 delegates on Jan. 31, he will suddenly lead the national race and be positioned to carry on for months.

“Romney has to win Florida to keep this wildfire from spreading to other states,” O’Connell said.

Debates have been key to Gingrich’s rise, because of his ability to connect with core Republican voter anger at Obama, O’Connell said. The debates have allowed Gingrich to overcome shortcomings in fundraising and staffing in states including Florida.

The race is further complicated by Santorum’s growing share of the vote and Paul’s passionate voting base.

Read more from Jeremy Wallace at the Sarasota Herald-Tribune

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Analysis & Political Strategy