After his second-place finish in the South Carolina primary, Mitt Romney arrived in Florida armed with money and organization. He’s used both to stop Newt Gingrich’s momentum. With three days until the primary, polls give Romney a solid lead over Gingrich in Florida.
Florida is a big state, but Romney and Gingrich’s paths have crossed often this week. There were the two debates, and in Miami, like Gingrich, Romney spoke to the Hispanic Leadership Network Friday.
In his talk, Romney made a pitch to Florida’s Puerto Rican voters, a group that will be especially important in the general election.
“By the way, I’m looking forward to the time when the people of Puerto Rico make their decision about becoming a state,” he said.
A few hours later, Puerto Rico Gov. Luis Fortuno, a statehood proponent, endorsed Romney.
The Space Coast Vote
Later in the day, a couple hundred miles north, Romney was at Cape Canaveral. Gingrich had been in the area a day earlier laying out his vision for the space program, one that includes a colony on the moon by the year 2020.
Romney spoke at Astrotech, a company that helped build components for the space shuttle. He was there to talk about the space program, but first had other things on his mind.
“How about that debate last night? Wasn’t that fun? I’ve had the fun of having two debates where I’ve had to stand up and battle,” he said. “Battling was fun and battling was won.”
Friday, Romney announced his space policy advisory group, one that includes two former astronauts and the former head of NASA. Though he didn’t mention Gingrich by name, he appeared to be trying to draw a contrast between the different approaches the candidates are taking to the space program.
“In the politics of the past, to get your vote on the Space Coast, I’d come here and promise hundreds of billions of dollars,” he said. “Or I’d lay out what my mission is … I’m not going to do that.”
Romney said he could only determine the best course for the space program after first setting objectives, looking at the data and subjecting it to expert analysis. That’s the way, he said, big decisions are made in the private sector.
Ruth Howard, who was there with five of her six kids, liked what she heard.
“Some of Gingrich’s ideas sound good, but they don’t sound realistic. They’re really kind of out there,” she said, “and I think that Romney just seems like someone that you can really count on.”
On Debating Obama
Romney closed his day with a large rally in Orlando. This is a Puerto Rican stronghold, and he was joined on stage by Fortuno.
Once again, Romney brought up Thursday’s debate, taking jabs at Gingrich for complaining the crowd was packed with Romney supporters.
“I’m looking forward to debating Barack Obama. I’m not going to worry about the crowd,” he said. “I’m going to be sure that we tell the truth to Barack Obama and get him out of the White House.”
Romney was also joined on stage in Orlando by Sen. John McCain. McCain told the crowd he thought there had been enough primary debates, but Romney’s two performances this week have helped turn around his campaign.