Since his last debate, Romney hired Brett O'Donnell as his debate coach. O'Donnell previously worked with the Michele Bachmann campaign. According to Gingrich, O'Donnell's "speciality is to say as many untruths as fast as you can."
Although Romney's new tactics had an effect, the real factor that harmed Gingrich was the dull debate crowd. In the past few debates, Gingrich has thrived on connecting with conservative audiences, who rewarded him with several standing ovations.
Last night in Tampa, NBC Evening News Anchor Brian Williams asked the crowd to remain quiet. As a result, there were no standing ovations, no emotion and no energy. It was the perfect setting for the GOP establishment empire to strike back.
Since the South Carolina result, the GOP establishment has been in a total meltdown. The Republican insiders, lobbyists and consultants who thrive on politics as usual were expecting Romney to breeze through the GOP race with little or no real competition.
Gingrich's win in South Carolina tremendously alarmed the establishment. They began attacking Gingrich from the minute the South Carolina results were tabulated. On Fox News, personalities like Brit Hume and Ann Coulter continued their efforts to dismiss and mock Gingrich. Romney deployed his surrogates to bash Gingrich on national television programs. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie claimed that Gingrich was "an embarrassment" to the Republican Party. It was the same message that Romney delivered in his television appearances. These attacks have been buttressed by millions of dollars in Romney attack commercials airing throughout Florida. It is a very similar strategy to the one that worked so well for Romney in Iowa. Several weeks before the Iowa caucus, Gingrich was leading in the polls, but the Romney Super-PAC unleashed a multi-million dollar media assault that effectively destroyed the Speaker. The Romney forces are hoping to work their negative magic once again.
Romney is not alone in trying to stop Gingrich as he has the support of almost all of the Republican Party leaders. They are terrified of Gingrich because he is a conservative intellectual who will make real change if he is elected as President. In contrast, Romney is more in the mold of Gerald Ford and Bob Dole. He will be a friend to the Beltway insiders who thrive on a growing bureaucracy. The politics as usual crowd have bet heavily on Romney and they will lay it all on the line to insure his nomination. Simply, they cannot afford to nominate Gingrich for he is too unpredictable and too radical.
Sadly, the real people who work in the trenches and give small donations to the Republican Party are always ignored by the GOP elite. The insiders could not care less about the Tea Party movement or the conservative agenda. In fact, their goals are to quash any real conservative wing of the party.
In South Carolina, Gingrich tapped into the Republican grassroots' building resentment against both the liberal media and the GOP establishment. Emotion and passion and his ability to connect with people who are ignored and discounted fueled his rise in the polls. Romney does not posses the same level of anger toward the media and the establishment, because he has been treated very well by both groups. The establishment wants Romney because he will safeguard their jobs and the mainstream media wants Romney because they know he will lose to their favorite candidate, Barack Obama.
In contrast, the base of the party wants a conservative nominee who will aggressively take the race to President Obama in the fall. They do not believe the media narrative that a conservative cannot win and that the GOP must move to the ideological center. The problem is that the Republican Party has been in the center ever since Newt Gingrich left as House Speaker.
Despite the best efforts of the Tea Party, nothing has stopped the accumulation of trillions of dollars in federal debt and the ever expanding reach of the federal government. Therefore, this election is not only a chance to beat President Obama and restore fiscal sanity to our nation, but it is also a chance to restore relevance to the Republican Party.