The stakes are high, but Mitt Romney isn’t showing much concern as he caravans across Florida this weekend with a sudden swagger and the newfound looseness of a front-runner who thinks he’s cleared the obstacles in his path.
Romney is coming out of the toughest stretch of his campaign, which was punctuated by a stinging loss to Newt Gingrich in the South Carolina primary. Now, he has opened a lead in the Florida polls before the state’s primary Tuesday and is aggressively trying to dispatch the former House speaker and focus on President Obama.
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.
In exclusive partnership with The Washington Post.