CHICAGO (CBS) — Political analyst Stephen Caliendo says Mitt Romney’s landslide victory in the Florida Republican primary was expected, but the primary exposed a deep divide among Republican voters.
But the split between Romney and Gingrich voters showed the divide in values among GOP voters, Caliendo said.
“It reinforced what I was thinking about already, which is that there’s a pretty deep divide amongst self-identified Republicans. If you look at the demographics of folks who voted for Gingrich last night – the people who identified as very conservative, or as born-again Christians, or said abortion is the most important issue and it should never be legal – I mean, there’s a significant ideological rift among these voters. It’s not just that they prefer one person over another,” he said. “There’s something going on. Tea Party supporters, for instance, went with Gingrich last night.”
Meanwhile, as the primaries go on, attack ads will continue regardless of how the public claims to feel about them, Caliendo said.
“It’s partly because so much money is going into the race that isn’t controlled by the candidates,” Caliendo said. “And so a couple of things can happen. Number one, there’s more money going in, so the amount of money to win Florida was astronomical – think of how much Romney and his supporters (spent with $16 million), unbelievable, right? And the candidates themselves can distance themselves from the negative messages if it’s the PACs.”
If a political action committee puts out a negative ad, a candidate can come out and reject the message, but still benefit from the ad, Caliendo said.
Meanwhile, Santorum and Paul are showing no indication of slowing down. But while Caliendo expects Paul to stay in the race until the convention in Tampa so he can make a speech, he says Santorum has little momentum left.
“I don’t take that much from his speech last night that suggested that he was staying in, because you have to give that speech. I mean, who wants to kill a party, right? You don’t stand up in front of all those supporter and say, ‘I’m suspending my campaign tonight,’ but none of these candidates have any indication whatsoever that they’re going to slow down,” he said.
And the hostility and vitriol between Romney and Gingrich continues.
“I think if we go back and focus on how some of these contests worked in 2008, even – the Republicans and the Democrats – there was a lot of hostility there too,” Caliendo said. “This does seem to be taken to another level, and I think partly because it’s not just the candidates themselves with the messages, it’s the outside groups that are sort of putting the messages out.”