ORLANDO, Fla.—“We cannot survive four more years of this!” moaned Kelly Clem-Rickon. She was one of Newt Gingrich’s Hillsborough County co-chairs, assigned to keep a Tampa crowd cheering and cheerful while the candidate made his delayed way over to give a speech. “We will preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on Earth, or we will sentence them to take the first step into 1,000 years of darkness!”
It was a perfect quote—a direct line from Ronald Reagan, an allusion to the Third Reich and the Revelation to John. The problem: It didn’t apply to Newt Gingrich. Florida Republicans chose Mitt Romney on Tuesday because they’re terrified of what would happen if Barack Obama won again, and the only way they saw to stop that was to choose the most “electable” candidate. In exit polling, 45 percent of Florida Republicans admitted that they were voting for the candidate with the best chance to beat Obama; only one-third as many said they were voting for a “true conservative.” Romney won 58 percent of that first group and just 11 percent of the second.
Why are Republicans obsessed with electability? They fear a second Barack Obama term the way Hogwarts students fear He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. Over a few days in Florida, I asked Republicans to tell me what specifically they feared would happen if Obama got four more years in the White House. Read their responses in the slide show below.
TODAY IN SLATE
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Cringing. Ducking. Mumbling.
How GOP candidates react whenever someone brings up reproductive rights or gay marriage.
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The smartest job perk you’ve never heard of.