Florida Rolls Out The Hot Seat For Primary

The battle for the Republican presidential nomination shifted to Florida Sunday hotter and more unpredictable than ever and vastly different than expected just days ago.

With Newt Gingrich’s huge victory in South Carolina, the race has never been more unsettled, leaving Florida poised once again to play a decisive role in determining the real frontrunner to take on President Barack Obama in November.

It’s a shocking turn compared to a week ago, when former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney seemed to have the nomination in hand. Romney thought he had won the first two states and held a strong lead in South Carolina. But in short order, a recount in Iowa declared Rick Santorum the winner there, and South Carolina gave Gingrich a surprise blowout victory.

“Florida just became relevant again,” said Ford O’Connell, a former adviser to Sen. John McCain’s 2008 campaign.

If Gingrich wins Florida and its 50 delegates on Jan. 31, he will suddenly lead the national race and be positioned to carry on for months.

“Romney has to win Florida to keep this wildfire from spreading to other states,” O’Connell said.

Debates have been key to Gingrich’s rise, because of his ability to connect with core Republican voter anger at Obama, O’Connell said. The debates have allowed Gingrich to overcome shortcomings in fundraising and staffing in states including Florida.

The race is further complicated by Santorum’s growing share of the vote and Paul’s passionate voting base.

Read more from Jeremy Wallace at the Sarasota Herald-Tribune

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published this page in In The News 2012-01-23 02:07:24 -0500
Analysis & Political Strategy