Gender Gap Destroyed Gingrich

Here’s the reason Mitt Romney won in Florida: Women turned against Newt Gingrich. In the primary on Tuesday, Romney carried men by only 5 points, according to the Fox News exit poll, while he won women by 52-28 — a 24-point margin!

Did women turn against Gingrich because of his personal baggage or the interview with his former wife? Did they just dislike his aggressiveness or feel that he couldn’t win? We don’t know. But what we do know is that a gender gap, which was not much in evidence in South Carolina, surfaced with a vengeance one week later in Florida.

Some theorize that it took a few days for Marianne Gingrich’s allegations to sink in. Others suggest that women might just have gotten an uneasy feeling about Newt. But the fact that the gender gap led to his defeat is incontrovertible.

Since the Democratic Party vote in any national election is heavily skewed toward women, Romney’s ability to attract their votes and Newt’s inability to do the same loom large in any calculation of their chances of victory against Obama. Romney can fight the president effectively for the female vote, while it is obvious that Newt cannot.

In any event, the Florida result does not end the process. It still has a ways to go. Gingrich, Santorum and Paul are fully entitled to pursue their candidacies — just as Huckabee did in 2008. But it is important that there be a ceasefire among the campaigns. Now that we have aired the accusations and charges in Florida, it is unnecessary and potentially self-destructive to repeat them in the remaining states.

Newt should have gotten the message that his negatives only backfired and made him look Nixonian. They jammed his ability to get out his positive points and share his bold and clear vision of America’s future with the voters. Both he and Romney need to cut it out! It’s time for the 11th Commandment to prevail. (Popularized by Ronald Reagan, it reads: “Thou shalt not attack a fellow Republican.”)

The campaign thus far has strengthened the eventual nominee. Romney was required to release his tax returns; his waffling on this question cost him South Carolina. But he did put them out there and survived the scrutiny. Now it is old news. We have heard all about the job losses among some of the clients of Bain Capital. We’ve seen an endless exposition of Romney’s flip-flops. Now the ammo is spent, its charge used up. The nominee in November will not face fresh charges, only old ones that have lost their punch.

While the primary and caucus process grinds on until one candidate gets a majority of the delegates, it is important that each day’s headlines do not provide new grist for Obama’s mill. After his defeat in Florida, Mike Huckabee, who never waged a negative campaign in the first place, made sure never to attack John McCain, and the Arizona senator returned the favor on his way to the nomination. Now it’s time for Romney, Gingrich, Santorum and Paul to absorb the lesson and start to pull their punches.

Will they do it? Not unless we make them.

Republicans of all stripes and in all states need to get in touch with the campaigns with one message: Cut it out! No more negatives! Save your fire for Barack Obama. Only if there is a real grass-roots demand for an end to negative campaigning will the internecine sniping among Republicans come to an end. Republicans must not form a firing squad in a circle!

We’ve all got a great task before us: We have to save what is left of this country from another Obama term in office. We won’t accomplish that by spilling the blood of our fellow Republicans.

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