But Romney’s task become somewhat harder late Saturday when former candidate Herman Cain, a tea-party favorite, endorsed Gingrich. “Speaker Gingrich is a patriot. Speaker Gingrich is not afraid of bold ideas,” Cain said, appearing with him at a Republican fundraiser in West Palm Beach, Fla.
Meanwhile, former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum’s campaign announced that he was canceling his Sunday morning appearances in Florida because his 3-year-old daughter, Isabella, seriously ill with a genetic disorder, has been admitted to a Philadelphia hospital.
Gingrich said Saturday he would go “all the way to the convention” and predicted a “wild and woolly” campaign for the next few days. His well-financed allies showed no signs of letting up their televised assault on Romney, while former Alaska governor Sarah Palin rushed to Gingrich’s defense, in a sign he might mobilize the party’s grass-roots conservatives.
The former House speaker, who has drawn large and enthusiastic crowds all week, said he would become the nominee if he wins Florida. And if he doesn’t, he said, he would be back in Tampa for this summer’s Republican National Convention.
“I will go all the way to the convention,” Gingrich said. “I expect to win the nomination. You just had two national polls that show me ahead. Why don’t you ask Governor Romney what he will do if he loses since he is behind in both national polls?”
But nobody has asked Romney that; the candidate has not held a media availability since last Monday. Instead, Romney is campaigning here with fresh energy and a more carefree spirit.
Earlier this week, he fired methodical attacks at Gingrich designed to rattle him and raise questions about his trustworthiness and leadership skills. But the past few days, while Gingrich takes bitter swipe after bitter swipe at him, Romney has hardly attacked his rival at all. When he has, his lines have been more humorous than high-handed.
In Pensacola on Saturday morning, Romney jabbed his sidekick, John McCain (R-Ariz.) about the mischievous tales of the senator’s Navy pilot youth. He won polite laughter after telling an awkward joke about a pickup driver in Wyoming with stinky animals in the back. He confided his nervousness about making “chitchat” with actor Jon Voight while phoning him to seek his endorsement.
And Romney said nothing about Gingrich other than to liken him to Goldilocks.
“We’ve had about 18 debates so far,” Romney told hundreds of supporters who filled the docks and balconies at a Pensacola restaurant Saturday morning. “They’re getting more and more fun as time goes on. This last one, Speaker Gingrich said he didn’t do so well because the audience was so loud. The one before, he said he didn’t do so well because the audience was too quiet. This is like Goldilocks, you know, you’ve got to get it just right.”