[Posted by Karl]
On the eve of the Florida primary, RCP’s Scott Conroy reports on increased support for Mitt Romney among the Sunshine State’s Hispanic community. Conroy’s story is corroborated by the weekend’s Miami Herald/Mason-Dixon poll, which has this pivotal demographic breaking for Romney over Newt Gingrich by a 52-28% margin.
This split echoes the 2008 primary in which McCain tied Romney among non-Hispanics, but won approximately 54% of the Hispanic vote. Indeed, Rudy Giuliani was the second-place candidate for Hispanics; Romney was a distinct third.
Thus, it appears that for a second cycle, Florida Republicans will likely back the nominally establishment candidate over the nominally non-establishment candidate, due in large part to the Hispanic vote. “Nominally” is the key term here, as the former Governor can argue he is less of the Beltway than the former Speaker of the House. Nevertheless, perception often passes for reality in politics . Moreover, the degree to which the GOP elders have sided with Romney over Gingrich is a reality, and Newt (for all his heresies) arguably has more conservative policy achievements to claim than Romney.
Yet the similar dynamic does not produce an identical result. For all of the grief Romney gets — much of it justified, imho — the right should take stock of where Florida and the GOP stand now when compared to 2008. In the last cycle, East Coast moderate neocons like Jennifer Rubin was flacking for John McCain over Mitt Romney, but now flacks for Romney. Conversely, grassroots talkers like Rush Limbaugh were backing Romney as the conservative alternative to McCain in 2008, but now back Gingrich over Romney.
If Romney wins the Florida primary as expected, some on the right will surely grumble about the party apparat having its way again. But the apparat is arguably having to accept more conservative candidates as time goes on.