The conventional wisdom holds that Florida is inherently friendlier territory for Mitt Romney. In any case, it’s certainly bigger territory, which tends to favor the better funded candidate with greater organization. But look back at the polls over the last two months and you see a rather different story.
Before last night’s big win Newt was some 20+ points behind Romney. But as recently as the end of November Newt was just shy of 30 points ahead of Romney (see chart here), according to the TPM Poll Average. Newt peaked at 45.8% support on November 28th. On the same day Romney was at 16.3%.
Now, from one perspective, this is simply the big and fast-cratering Newt surge we all know about. But there’s a bit more to it than that.
Newt surged everywhere. But nowhere did his surge or his margin go anywhere near as high as it did in Florida. Just as a point of comparison he peaked in Iowa at 30.3% on 12/5; in New Hampshire at 24% on 12/2; in South Carolina (on his first surge) at 37.3% on 12/7.
This reasoning is far from conclusive about the future. Just because Newt was doing great two months ago doesn’t mean he’s going to do great again. But it’s no coincidence that Newt’s support rose faster and further in Florida than in any of the other four early states. It tells me Florida is ripe ground for Newt to do really well. And more than that, there’s almost a quarter of the electorate which was supporting Newt only a short time ago.
Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.