CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- "I'm a journalist," says Diana Gessler, 66. "I journal."
The faithful supporter of Mitt Romney, blissed out after his speech at Astrotech Space Operations, shows me the art book in which she draws pictures of what she sees.
Romney, she said, was the "only adult" in the field. "Newt throws tantrums," she said dismissively. But you know who I really needed to talk to? Her friend Michelle Herbeck, 55, a leader of the Space Coast Patriots. This was the local Tea Party organization, represented by a fan of Mitt Romney.
"There's a lot of misinformation about what the Tea Party wants," she said. "We're against socialism." She wasn't too bothered by Romney's health care compromise in Massachusetts? "That was a state-level reform, and he doesn't want to implement it nationally," she explained. Romney was a businessman, like Rick Scott, the gubernatorial candidate she backed in 2008. (Bill McCollum, the state's former attorney general, was the establishment candidate against Scott; he now backs Gingrich. This might, for high-information voters, be an important strike against the former speaker.)
Herbeck had suffered financially from the Obama administration's NASA cuts. Romney only dealt generically with that issue. "Our space program is an integral part of American exceptionalism!" he said. "I'm not going to come here today and tell you precisely what the mission will be. I'm going to tell you who I'm going to give it to." It was a mighty contrast to Newt Gingrich, who'd come to this area with talk of an eight-year moonshot and permanent colony.
"Newt's being unreasonable," said Herbeck, rolling her eyes. "Anybody can run for president and promise a lot of crap."