April will mark the 60th anniversary of the maiden flight of the legendary B-52 bomber, renowned for its “carpet-bombing” capabilities, aimed at smashing the enemy’s forces to smithereens and completely demoralizing its leaders. This is the strategy that Mitt Romney employed in Florida, but despite his impressively crushing victory, its’ success may not have been complete.
Romney definitely erased memories of his humiliating defeat in South Carolina, regained his status as the “inevitable” Republican nominee and probably created a stir at the White House because of his significant majority in a state that is so crucial to victory in November. But even though he tried to make out in his victory speech that the Republican primaries were essentially behind him, he apparently failed to “shock and awe” his main rival, Newt Gingrich, and may have actually increased his motivation to stay in the race to the end, no matter how bitter it will be.
Although Gingrich had uncharacteristically weak performances in the pre-Florida debates, and his “colony on the moon” ramblings proved embarrassing even to his supporters, and his poor performance among married women – voters, that is - proved that his troubled personal history is taking its toll, what really destroyed him was Romney’s well-funded propaganda machine that decimated the former Speaker’s reputation with an endless loop of poisonous commercials broadcast on Florida’s radio and television stations. And even though most of the media’s attention was on the funds that Gingrich has received from the Adelson family, it turns out that it was Romney who was raking in the truly big money and using it to wage a negative campaign that was so effective that it is bound, unfortunately, to be repeated and expanded during the upcoming election campaign.
My great-great-great-grandfather Rabbi Shlomo Ganzfried, wrote in the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch codex that the best revenge is to “increase your positive qualities and follow righteous paths” because then your enemy “will mourn when hearing about your good reputation” but I doubt whether this is what Gingrich has in mind. He is now like a wounded animal, seeking blood, but in order to continue hammering Romney as a habitual liar – or, even worse, as a liberal in conservative clothing - Gingrich will have to convince his supporters, but mainly his benefactors, that there is still a viable path to victory and that there is still a light, however flickering, at the end of the primary tunnel.
The political analysts have already determined that Gingrich would need to survive the cold month of February, in which Romney is likely to win all six primaries and caucuses, and to reach the March 6 Super Tuesday sufficiently intact to start piling up some victories in southern states. To this end, Gingrich will be able to point to the lingering unease with Romney that conservative voters expressed in exit polls, as well as to his own success in Florida’s conservative northern counties. At the same time, to continue pressing Rick Santorum, probably futilely, to leave the race and to form a united conservative front against Romney.
As for the Jewish vote, exit polls indicated that despite Gingrich’s attempt to stir the pot, as it were, with the story of how cruel Massachusetts governor Romney took the kosher food out of elderly Jews mouths – Jewish voters comprised only one per cent of Republicans yesterday, compared to three percent who participated in the 2008 primaries and to the 4.2 per cent Jewish share of the general population. The New York Times’ Nate Silver suggests that this may mean that the much-ballyhooed Jewish dissatisfaction with President Obama is less intense than advertised, but it could also mean that formally registering as Republicans was a bridge too far for many Jews, who prefer to sit on the fence and to watch the political drama play out before deciding for whom they will vote on November 6. After all, they may ask with the proper intonation - what’s to hurry?
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