Republican Field Likely To Look Far Different For Florida Voters

Seven major candidates entered the Iowa caucuses Tuesday, but as many as four could drop out before the GOP nomination battle shifts to Florida Jan. 31.

While Iowa was not expected to anoint a frontrunner as it has occasionally in the past, it will start a winnowing process that New Hampshire and South Carolina will continue over the next three weeks, dramatically reshaping the field.

When Florida votes, it would not be a surprise to see Michele Bachmann, Jon Huntsman and Rick Perry out of the running, said David Johnson, an Atlanta-based Republican political consultant.

“There is no way they all survive to Florida,” Johnson said of the current field.

If the field is trimmed as expected, Florida could be in the same position as in 2008, when it catapulted John McCain to the Republican nomination.

Florida may loom largest for Mitt Romney, said Ford O’Connell, a veteran Republican campaign strategist from Virginia. O’Connell said that if Romney wins Florida, it could secure his path to the nomination. But losing Florida would continue the narrative of a candidate struggling to win the base, which would almost assure a drawn out fight with alternative conservatives.

Romney must hope that Perry and Gingrich remain in the race and split the “anti-Mitt” vote. If one is out by Florida, it could allow voters wary of Romney to unite behind one candidate, O’Connell said.

The only certainty for Florida’s ballot is that Romney and Ron Paul will be fighting for the Sunshine State. Both campaigns have the staff network, volunteers and money to push to Florida and beyond.

Read more from Jeremy Wallace at the Sarasota Herald-Tribune

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published this page in In The News 2012-01-03 18:00:00 -0500
Analysis & Political Strategy