It is only fitting that the mudslinging now coming out of the Mitt Romney camp is occurring here in Florida. When it comes to dirty politics, the Sunshine State stands in a class all it's own.
After Newt Gingrich's overwhelming victory in the S.C. primary and subsequent surge in the polls, a real sense of desperation set in for Romney.
Desperation that manifests itself in the aggressive demeanor he's taken on and in the negative campaign ads that have inundated the airwaves in Florida.
Such as the ad that falsely claims that Gingrich "resigned in disgrace" which Romney is still running and even had aired during last night's CNN debate. A claim that none other than Charles Krauthammer himself has stated is not accurate.
Although, were you to ask Mitt Romney about this ad, odds are you will get feigned ignorance. A bothersome trend from the former Governor, whether you're asking about sleazy campaign ads or Swiss bank accounts, is for him to deny knowledge and divert the responsibility to others.
Yet, desperate times call for desperate measures and fortunately for Romney, his chief campaign strategist and several of his most senior campaign staff were Charlie Crist’s top political advisers who are ever so familiar with the political turf here in Florida.
And this 'win at whatever cost' approach now seen coming from the Romney camp is eerily reminiscent of good ol' Charlie, leaving one to wonder if this is driven by the sense of entitlement that seems to be inherent in the political class, a.k.a. the establishment?
And make no mistake about it, the 'establishment' is fully behind Mitt Romney, as evidenced by the likes of John McCain and Connie Mack IV out stumping on his behalf. Individuals who are always quick to rail against the very system they have become an embodiment of.
In truth, McCain's appearance signals something far more sinister. Mitt Romney has not put forth much effort to court tea party support, much like Crist’s moderate, ignore-the-tea-party strategy. Which makes sense considering the same individuals are behind both campaigns.
As we often see in both Washington and Tallahassee, the political class is first and foremost about outmaneuvering it's opponents and the tea party needs to understand that the moderate wing of the GOP sees it as much of an opponent as it does the Democrats. Perhaps more so, since both parties share a common benefit from a continuation of the status quo.
And if Mitt Romney can secure the nomination without so much as crossing the street for the tea party, it will serve the dual purpose of ensuring the establishment retains control with 'their guy' and will go a very long way toward suppressing the rightward shift of the party brought on by the tea party.
Yes, the GOP presidential primary comes down to the moderate wing versus the conservative wing of the party - the establishment vs. the tea party.
With Newt Gingrich, in all his glory, representing the conservative tea party position.
In reality, this has been a two man race for some time now. Rick Santorum is reportedly pulling up stakes on Sunday and returning home two days before voting takes place. Simply put, he just doesn't have the resources to compete in an expensive state like Florida where it's winner take all.
Much like former Gov. Sarah Palin, who wants to see the nomination process continue to play out, Santorum supporters AND the tea party movement in Florida must see the long term effects of a Romney win. If he prevails here, the race is all but over.
A vote for Newt Gingrich ensures a continuation of this process and all parties involved live to fight another day.
One thing is clear, with Romney as the Republican nominee, the tea party may as well pack up and go home - it will have zero influence in his organization.
The moderate wing of the party is counting on the political immaturity of the tea party to prevail, the fierce independence of the many groups to prevent it from seeing the long term strategy playing out.
What is really encouraging here is that just as it has been from the very beginning, the people have it within their power to control the outcome. The question is do we choose to exercise this power.