* Romney: “I’m not concerned about the very poor”: Before we get to last night’s results, this quote from Mitt Romney on CNN will prove to be important:
“I’m not concerned with the very poor. We have a safety net there,” Romney told CNN. “If it needs repair, I’ll fix it. I’m not concerned about the very rich, they’re doing just fine. I’m concerned about the very heart of the America, the 90 percent, 95 percent of Americans who right now are struggling.”
“The challenge right now — we will hear from the Democrat party the plight of the poor,” Romney responded, after repeating that he would fix any holes in the safety net. “It’s not good being poor and we have a safety net to help those that are very poor . . . My focus is on middle income Americans...
In any political campaign, he said, “you can choose where to focus. You can focus on the rich — that’s not my focus. You can focus on the very poor — that’s not my focus. My focus is on middle-income Americans.”
Romney seems to have meant that the “very poor” have a safety net while the middle class doesn’t, and that the latter will be the focus of his campaign. But this is another sign of his apparent inability to avoid saying things that play perfectly into the Democratic strategy of painting him as the candidate of the one percent. (His recent claim that he likes to be able to “fire people” who provide services to him is a case in point.) If this tone deafness isn’t giving Republicans pause about Romney, it’s hard to know what would. Video when it’s available.
Update: The CNN trancript has the quote this way: “I’m not concerned about the very poor.”
* Romney’s big night: The big story of Romney’s victory last night in Florida is that Romney decisively defeated Newt Gingrich among constituencies that had been resistant to his candidacy — showing that he can unite disparate GOP constituencies behind his candidacy. But the exit polls are still giving some Republican observers pause.
Romney crushed Gingrich among “somewhat conservative” voters (52-32); won among lower income voters (44-31) and among those without a college degree (45-34).
However, Gingrich still edged Romney among evangelicals (38-37), won among very conservative voters (41-30) and among Tea Party supporters (41-37), and trounced Romney among those who want a “true conservative” above all (44-11). Which means that...
* Conservatives are still not sold on Romney: Ron Brownstein parses the results:
Gingrich isn’t a clear favorite to win another state until Super Tuesday on March 6. But the continued resistance to Romney among the party’s most conservative elements evident in the exit poll suggests that the race, which has stubbornly resisted order for over a year, may have more twists in store before anyone can claim the nomination...
Especially given Romney’s overwhelming financial advantage in Florida, that suggests a foundation that hasn’t completely cracked — one that could provide Gingrich more opportunity when the calendar turns back toward Southern and Heartland states in March.
Looking onward to the general election, the question is whether these remaining pockets of resistance mean Romney won’t be able to excite the base enough to win next fall, as Romney skeptic Erick Erickson argues, or whether the base’s seething hatred of Obama will ultimately outweigh any lingering doubts about Romney.
* Does the GOP have a turnout/enthusiasm problem? Eric Kleefeld runs the numbers:
In the 2008 Republican primary in Florida, in which John McCain beat Romney by a margin of 36%-31%, a total of nearly 1.95 million votes were cast.
But in tonight’s primary, turnout was actually much lower. At time of writing, with 98% of precincts reporting, the total turnout is only about 1.65 million — a drop-off of 15% in terms of the raw number of voters.
* GOP strategists fret about Romney’s “negative narrative”: Ron Fournier highlights some of the data I’ve been pointing to about Romney’s struggles with non-college whites, independents, and moderates, and reports that even Romney allies are nervous about his general election candidacy:
What they worry about is Romney’s so-called negative narrative. “First impressions mean everything in politics, and the first thing most voters are learning about Romney is pretty unappetizing,” said a GOP strategist and lobbyist who has helped run a presidential campaign.
* How badly is primary damaging Romney? Steve Kornacki offers an illuminating look at how badly Romney appears to have been damaged among core general election swing constituencies, though as Kornacki notes, voters amid dire economic times have proven willing to give damaged candidates a second look (see Clinton, Bill).
* Romney’s relentless negativity: Nice take by David Firestone on how Romney’s negativity and rightward lurch on immigration have diminished him in advance of the general election.
Particularly ugly moment: In his victory speech last night, Romney claimed that the U.S. has sunk to “what the worst of Europe has become,” which is not only less than uplifting, as Firestone notes, but also profound nonsense on every level. Long slog ahead.
* Wealthy underwrite Romney’s negative ad blitz: Great New York Times scoop:
Close to 60 corporations and wealthy individuals gave checks of $100,000 or more to a “super PAC” supporting Mitt Romney in the months leading up to the Iowa caucuses, according to documents released on Tuesday, underwriting a $17 million blitz of advertising that has swamped his Republican rivals in the early primary states.
Friendly reminder: Romney supports doing away with any and all limits on the size of contributions to campaigns.
* Dems gearing up for very tough general election: Howard Fineman reports from inside the Democratic operation that Dems are preparing to run a brutal, scorched earth camapign that relentlessly targets Romney’s flip-flopping and one-percent-ness.
* Buffett Rule proposal proceeds apace: Sheldon Whitehouse’s propsal to implement the Buffett Rule picks up the endorsement of the New York Times, and it’s going to be very interesting to see how Republicans explain their opposition to this one if and when it comes up for a vote. The bill is set to be introduced today.
* Massachusetts Dems ratchet up pressure on Scott Brown: The Massachusetts Democratic Party is calling on Scott Brown to clarify whether he supports Sherrod Brown’s push for all Senators to divest in stock in companies affected by their legislating.
Party spokesman Kevin Franck is challenging Brown, who has owned stock in companies he’s legislated over in the past, to prove he is “really serious about cleaning up Washington,” and this, along with the Buffett Rule, may become flashpoints in the race.