Romney joins rival Gingrich in the viper pit, and it's working

Published: Sunday, Jan. 29 2012 2:00 p.m. MST

"You can speak as long as you want to," Romney said, raising his voice and gesturing in the direction of the undecipherable taunts. "We will stand for freedom and we will not be shouted down by those who would change America. We will stand for the America we love."

The crowd, who'd already been won over by Romney's youngest son, Craig, addressing them in Spanish and Romney's tough talk about Castro and other dictators, cheered wildly.

University of Miami political science professor Casey Klofstad said Romney needed to "take some plays out of Gingrich's playbook," because he tended to be "very wooden, very stiff" rather than fired up.

"Look, in Miami at least, there's a lot of flash, a lot of spontaneity," Klofstad said, describing Florida as a microcosm of the entire nation. "If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere."

Kirk Jowers, head of the University of Utah's Hinckley Institute of Politics and a longtime Romney supporter, said Republicans are "a little angry. And they want to see some of that anger in their candidate."

Romney had focused most of his critical comments in previous states on President Barack Obama, attempting to set himself up as the presumptive GOP nominee. But after his disappointing loss in South Carolina, he switched strategies.

"He realized he needed to show not just that he could take a punch, but that he could swing back as well," Jowers said.

Even so, Jowers said Romney isn't really any different than he was as the leader of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

"It's the same Romney," Jowers said. "I think Utahns will be appreciative that when he takes some unfair punches to the face in South Carolina, he will defend himself in Florida."

E-mail: lisa@desnews.com Twitter: dnewspolitics

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