Florida; The Sunshine State, I mean the Nomination State

Bookmark and Share With ten months to go before Republicans begin holding their binding presidential nomination contests, the field of candidates is still taking shape, the primary and caucus calendar is still being worked out, and a clear choice for the nomination is as far away from the minds of voters as Barack Obama is from reducing the nation’s debt. All the lingering questions that are leaving the G.O.P. blowing in the wind, even as President Obama continues to show weaknesses among voters, are helping to assure us a few things and that is that Sunshine State of tomorrow, is looking more and more and more like the Granite State of yesterday.

Up until 2000, no Republican has ever won the White House without winning the New Hampshire Primary. That year, John McCain, defeated then Governor George Bush. That year, Bush went on to win South Carolina, the state immediately following New Hampshire, and then eventually both the nomination and the Presidency. In 2012, it is likely that New Hampshire will again produce a primary election winner who could easily fail to win the Republican nomination. That person is Mitt Romney.

Romney currently leads most all New Hampshire polls. But that doesn’t say much about Romney’s overall viability as candidate for the G.O.P. nomination. By all rights, Romney should be winning New Hampshire. He was the governor of a neighboring state whos media market dominates it, he has a residence in the state’srecently campaigned among New Hampshire voters little more than three years ago, and has maintained a presence in the state ever since. The fact is that Mitt Romney should be the frontrunner to win, not only the New Hampshire Republican Primary, but the Republican presidential nomination as well. And while for many different reasons he is the frontrunner, his hold on to that tile is tenuous at best.

In a ginned up TEA movement environment that has a pervasive limited government mentality running through the Party like hot water filtering through a tea bag, the “big-government” healthcare plan which Romney created in Massachusetts when he was Governor, is leaving a bad taste in the mouths of Republican voters. It is indeed his biggest weakness, a weakness that causes people to stop and scrutinize Romney’s record even closer. And under that scrutiny, his other flaws begin to take on a new dimension that accentuates his flip-flops on issues like abortion, and a personal wealth so vast that people begin to feel that he is out of touch with the common man.

All of these are themes which a well armed, articulate, opposing campaigning can drive home and use to significantly hurt Mitt Romney, especially outside of the seemingly friendly pro-Romney, environment in New Hampashire.

Which brings us to Florida.

When all the dust settles on the brewing primary and caucus calendar battle, Florida’s nomination contest is more than likely to follow the first four—- Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina. Florida is currently trying to move up the date of their primary to one which would come before these states, but the very real possibility of the RNC penalizing the Sunshine State for such a move by taking away the national convention that is suppose to be held in Tampa, will more than likely resolve the problem. If that is in fact true, while Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina, will still be important, especially for Mitt Romney, it is more than likely that these four states will produce mixed results.

Depending of course on who is running, Iowa is likely to choose the most predominantly, high profile social conservative, something which even though Mitt Romney is, the heavily concentrated evangelical vote in Iowa does not believe. Here a Huckabee, Palin, Bachmann-like candidate is more than likely to win, if they run.

Romney is more than likely to win in New Hampshire. He has to if he wants to survive. Romney may also win Nevada, but this is certainly not a foregone conclusion. People like Newt Gingrich and Ambassador and fellow Mormon, Jon Huntsman, will make it harder for Romney to solidify a victory. But even if Mitt did win Nevada, a likely loss for him in the state to follow, South Carolina, will muddle any clear frontrunner status.

That would then leave the G.O.P. field facing Florida.

With 99 delegates to the convention, it will be the biggest number of delegates awarded in any contest up to that point and a win here could provide critical momentum to one of the candidates as they head into a Super Tuesday event that will contests in anywhere from 9 to 11 states spread out in the South, West and Mid-Atlantic. Among these states are California with 172 delegates and New York with 95 delegates.

While these Super Tuesday primaries involve multiple influencing factors such as differing regional and ideological bends, the desire to find a clear frontrunner will allow Florida to provide significant numerical and psychological momentum to the campaign of the candidate who wins its primary. Florida could either solidify frontrunner status for someone like Romney, or provide a candidate like Haley Barbour with a big boost of confidence, especially if Barbour wins South Carolina as he heads into Florida. If she were to run, Florida could make or break the campaign of Sarah Palin and it can do the same for Tim Pawlenty

Florida is the real wildcard here. It will have the ability to confirm a candidates frontrunner status, take it away from them, or produce a new frontrunner right before a large chunk of delegates make up their minds. People like Haley Barbour certainly see the importance of Florida. That is why along with an aggressive, under-the-radar presence in South Carolina, his potential campaign has been aggressively courting and cultivating Florida. In addition to keynoting a state Republican dinner he is calling legislators and key Party leaders, seeking their endorsements and if they don’t, he is dissuading them from giving any money to other candidates until he has made a decision.

In the final analysis, Florida is shaping up to be far more important than New Hampshire use to be and while it is not going to speak definitively for the entire Republican Party, it will have a far bigger voice than most other states.

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