Will Mitt Romney fight? Newt found out in Florida

The prevailing critique of Mitt Romney among Republicans who can’t yet bring themselves to support the former Massachusetts governor is that he’s too bland to be inspirational, too packaged and buttoned-down to appeal to the white-hot sentiments of an angry populist throng itching for a fist fight with Barack Obama.

For these, Romney is like a saltine cracker and soda pop at a time the right-wing nation is chomp-stomp-famished for a bag of right-wing Doritos chased by a shot of electoral tequila.

We want flavor, edge, fervor — we want fight. And on this score, many Romney hold-outs believe, he isn’t meeting the bar.

To this block of conservatives, their reluctance for Romney isn’t mostly about ideology. Sure, Mitt’s got Romneycare, but Newt was the champion of the individual mandate that is the centerpiece of Obamacare. And Newt did sit on a couch with Nancy Pelosi and read a manuscript about global warming that could’ve been written by the smarmy hands of Al Gore — that is, if it actually wasn’t written by Al Gore.

Let’s be serious: Even Newt Gingrich’s most ardent backers know deep-down that if he wins the nomination we’ll spend the entire fall of 2012 being forced to defend Gingrich’s professional relationship with mortgage-giants Fannie and Freddie — you know, the ones who wrecked the economy.

Then they’ll move on to other items. For an Obama campaign eager to distract national attention from the sorry state of the economy, a Gingrich nomination is an oasis in the desert.

Still, Newt is very much in the hunt. This is due, more than any other single factor, to Newt’s remarkable capacity to speak to the frustrations and passions of conservatives.

If only Mitt Romney were capable of the same.

It’s a refrain I’ve heard a lot in the last month and it frames the final question that stands between Romney and the nomination: Will Mitt fight?

Judging from the way the Romney campaign and Romney the person conducted themselves in Florida, it’s a question that both he and his campaign knew they had to answer in the Sunshine State.

And boy did they — (cue Dick Cheney) big time.

Romney, down-trodden from a decisive whippin’ in South Carolina, rose up with fury in Florida, literally crushing the former speaker with systematic, lethal precision.

And when the votes were counted, the race wasn’t even close.

Some will, no doubt, bemoan the negativity of the campaign in Florida. Gingrich himself has been whining a lot — as in, incessantly.

But this is all so much nonsense. This is not tiddly-winks. This is politics, as in war by other means, and the goal is the presidency. This is about picking the man who will carry our cause against the Obama war machine in the election of a lifetime.

Pansies, push-overs and incessant whiners need not apply.

Conservatives asked for more fight, and they got it from Romney in Florida. For this, Colorado conservatives should cheer.

We are the battleground. We are the one state in the union where Republicans managed to lose ground in 2010 because we couldn’t match the ferocity and sophistication of liberal attacks. We, more than any other Republican Party anywhere in the country, understand that we will not defeat the Democrats and George Soros and the union hordes unless we compete with our best.

In Florida, Mitt Romney proved that he is the one. This doesn’t mean that Romney isn’t still buttoned-down. In the Romney cupboard, saltine crackers and soda pop still prevail.

But, like Teddy Roosevelt, Romney seems to know that a “big stick” trumps “big talk”.  Before Florida, Newt Gingrich probably doubted this. In its wake, he most certainly does not.

All of which helps frame the essential case for Romney for those Colorado conservatives still wondering which candidate to support, with the caucuses right around the corner.

I, for one, am voting for Romney because he’s the best candidate on the economy. And just as much, I’m voting for Mitt Romney because he is the candidate in whom Obama and his war machine will have more than met their match.

You can’t govern if you can’t win. If last week in Florida is any indication, Romney is on his way to doing both.

Josh Penry is a former minority leader of the Colorado Senate. He is a graduate of Grand Junction High School and Mesa State College.


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