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2012 Florida Primary

January 22, 2012 by staff 

2012 Florida Primary, The unstoppable force that is Newt Gingrich and the immovable object that is Mitt Romney are headed for a collision in Florida. A primary that looked 10 days ago like a potential 2012 afterthought on Romney’s cruise to the nomination now stands as perhaps the pivotal moment of the campaign.

Romney, bruised by his embarrassing defeat here in South Carolina, must quickly reinforce his already formidable strength in the year’s first mega-state primary. After his upset Palmetto State win, Gingrich may be hard-pressed to prove he can sustain his campaign’s electric energy on a much larger scale; if he succeeds, his back-from-the-dead candidacy could become a true juggernaut.

Romney starts out as a muscular favorite. He has led all recent polling in Florida. Between Romney’s campaign and the super PAC supporting him, nearly $7 million has already been spent on television ads aiding the former Massachusetts governor, according to a source. The other candidates have spent almost nothing.

What’s more, Florida voters have been able to vote by absentee ballot since well before Gingrich’s numbers spiked, likely giving an edge to Romney and his get-out-the-vote operation. Republican Party of Florida spokesman Brian Hughes said that 197,271 early and absentee ballots had been cast as of Saturday morning.

But despite Romney’s built-in advantages, Florida politicos see the possibility of a rapidly tightening contest in a closed-primary state where only Republicans will vote, and where GOP voters have thrilled in recent years to combative conservative candidates – and where Gingrich’s late momentum could make all the difference.

“Florida was already competitive,” said Republican fundraiser Ann Herberger, a former Jon Huntsman adviser. “Florida is absolutely in play and anybody who tells you it isn’t is just not truthful. If anything has taught us, from the GOP primary in ’08 to the United States Senate primary in ’10 down here, nothing is inevitable.”

National strategist Mike Murphy, who has advised Romney and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, said Romney “should not underestimate the danger” in the Sunshine State. Bush reiterated Saturday that he will stay neutral in the state’s primary.

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