Gingrich and Romney debate 311.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
WASHINGTON – The topsy-turvy Republican presidential primary process has once
again seen a rapid shift in the race, as most polls now give Mitt Romney a
sizable lead going into Tuesday’s Florida primary.
Romney was ahead of
Gingrich by 12 points in a Reuters/Ipsos poll on Sunday, and three other polls
indicated his lead is between 11 and 15 points.
Gingrich, speaking on Fox
News Sunday, acknowledged he had an “uphill” battle facing him, but predicted he
would do better than the recent numbers indicated.
“I think it will be
much, much closer than these polls. We have a shot at winning,” Gingrich
said on Fox. “But frankly it’s uphill against the sheer weight of Romney’s money
and the negativity of his campaign.”
Though Gingrich doesn’t have
Romney’s funding, his SuperPAC (political action committee) has benefited from
two $5 million contributions from Sheldon and Miriam Adelson, who have long been
close to both Gingrich and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
installment came after Gingrich, former speaker of the US House, delivered a
major upset to Romney, former governor of Massachusetts, in South Carolina just
over a week ago.
After vanquishing Romney by a spread of 40 to 28 percent
in South Carolina, Florida polls originally put Gingrich on top. Winning
Florida, the first large, widely diverse state, would be a huge boost for
Gingrich, whose campaign had struggled until South Carolina.
win would not only provide the lion’s share of delegates at this point, but
would cement his status as a solid challenger to Romney, who has been the
front-runner for most of the race, and help him garner the money and other forms
of support needed to challenge the well-funded and well-organized Romney. In that
case, the race would probably drag out for at least several more
Gingrich has taken on a heavy schedule in the state, which has
some of the largest Jewish and Latino populations in the nation. His and other candidates’
campaigning so far has often focused on parts of the state where there are lower
concentrations of Jews, who tend to vote Democratic.
did take a shot at Romney during a campaign appearance Monday on Jewish issues,
criticizing the former governor for his having “eliminated serving kosher food
for elderly Jewish residents under Medicare,” as quoted by Politico.
was referring to a veto Romney made in 2003 as governor for $600,000 in funding
for kosher meals to the elderly in Massachusetts, money that was restored by the
state legislature, according to a New York Post
report detailing the incident
Romney’s spokesman defended his opposition, saying the state was
in crisis and the kosher funding veto was needed to head off higher
reimbursement rates for Medicaid, the New York Post
whose campaign has been in Florida longer than most others, helped his cause by
strong performances in the debates held last week, the same medium that
propelled Gingrich in South Carolina.
“I’ve had the fun of two debates
where I had to stand up and battle, and battling was fun,” Romney told
supporters at a recent campaign stop where he seemed buoyed by the polling tide
turning his way.
Should Romney prevail Tuesday, particularly by a large
margin, it would revive questions of whether any candidate would be able to
seriously challenge him, Gingrich included. Rick Santorum, former senator from
Pennsylvania, and Texas Rep. Ron Paul are also running, but have trailed
significantly in polls in Florida.Reuters contributed to this report.