What GOP Race To The Finish Means For Republican Party13:59
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Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, celebrates his Florida primary election win at the Tampa Convention Center in Tampa, Fla., Tuesday. (AP)
Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, celebrates his Florida primary election win at the Tampa Convention Center in Tampa, Fla., Tuesday. (AP)

The GOP presidential candidates have left Florida, after Mitt Romney trounced Newt Gingrich 46 to 31 percent in that state's primary.

The candidates aren't just leaving sunny skies and palm trees behind, they also left some scorched earth. The race turned nasty, with Romney carpet bombing Gingrich with thousands of negative TV ads.

Gingrich didn't have the cash to compete on the airwaves, but in rallies and recent debates, he has attacked Romney for everything from his record as the head of Bain Capital to the health care reform law he passed while governor of Massachusetts.

Negative Attacks Could Hurt GOP

Many Florida voters spoke out against the negative tone of the campaign there.

Republican voter Jo-Ann Miller, a registered nurse from Orlando, told the Boston Globe, "I am not happy with our leading candidates now, and the reason is they have gotten too dirty. It is beginning to disgust me.’’

Meanwhile, there won't be an opportunity for negative debate attacks, because the next debate doesn't come until late February.

Will February Matter?

Bill Kristol of the Weekly Standard wonders whether February might matter more than some might think, and whether Santorum might pick up some steam.

What if Santorum does as well or better than Gingrich in the Nevada caucuses Saturday, or in the Minnesota and Colorado caucuses next Tuesday? What if Santorum is competitive with Romney in the Missouri beauty contest primary next Tuesday, where Gingrich isn't on the ballot? Couldn't non-Romney voters begin to move nationally from Gingrich to Santorum? Couldn't populist and Tea Party leaders like Sarah Palin do so as well?

Guests:

  • Scott Rasmussen, a pollster and founder of Rasmussen Reports. His new book is "The People's Money."
  • Mark McKinnon, Republican political strategist and President of Maverick Media. He worked as media advisor to former President George W. Bush and for 2008 Republican presidential candidate Senator John McCain. He is co-founder of No Labels, a non-profit political organization made up of Republicans, Democrats, and Independents whose slogan is “Not left. Not right. Forward.”

This segment aired on February 1, 2012.

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