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Romney Resists Hitting the Panic Button

By Scott Conroy - January 25, 2012

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The invited crowd of a couple hundred people cheered, but there was little sign of the gut-level passion among his supporters that has characterized Gingrich’s events so far this week.

His second stop here on Tuesday featured a smaller crowd but an even more eye-catching backdrop, as Romney stood in front of a recently foreclosed house.

“One-quarter of all foreclosed homes in America are in Florida,” the former Massachusetts governor noted, highlighting his resume as a problem solver rather than a playing the role of firebrand.

Romney echoed some of his attack lines on Gingrich that he unveiled during Monday night’s debate, but remarks were focused on policy and tearing down President Obama rather than his more immediate rival.

Romney senior strategist Eric Fehrnstrom said that the candidate is eager to fight back against Gingrich and will become more aggressive, but only when the situation calls for it.

“The rhythms of a campaign are dictated by what’s happening in the moment, and what’s happening here in Florida is an unprecedented housing foreclosure crisis,” Fehrnstrom said.

Team Romney has long pointed to its steadiness at the wheel in contrast to the rapid rises and falls of other GOP contenders.

But after losing the Palmetto State, which has been won by every eventual GOP nominee since Reagan, the newest challenge Romney faces is undoubtedly his most concerning so far.

And still, there is a sense within the Romney camp that all of the work that’s been done over the past five years will, in the end, win the day.

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, a top Romney surrogate in the state, used words like “passion” and “intensity” to describe how the candidate would continue to talk about the economy over the next week.

But he was clear in his view that it was the strength of the campaign apparatus, rather than some newly discovered fervor from the candidate himself, that would put Romney over the top.

“His organization and infrastructure are better than any of the other candidates’ in places like Miami-Dade, where that matters,” Putnam said. 

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Scott Conroy is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. He can be reached at sconroy@realclearpolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter @RealClearScott.

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