As Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich continue their public political brawl in the Florida primary, several subplots also are unwinding, stage right. Following are some of them, as compiled by Politico.
Given that polls project a Romney victory, the issue of how much he wins by turns into a major one. The conventional wisdom is that a victory margin of 12 percentage points or more gives the former Massachusetts governor additional momentum. But a margin of less than that amount gives Gingrich a moral victory. He would be able to tout his showing as a respectable one in light of Romney’s superior organization and finances, not to mention the experience of a presidential run in 2008. But a big Romney victory would erase much of the positive fallout from Gingrich’s victory in South Carolina.
In 2008, Sen. John McCain cleaned Romney’s clock in Miami-Dade County, where about three-quarters of Republicans are Hispanic. So Romney is trying to turn things around this time. He has put a heavy emphasis on the large Cuban-American community there, campaigning with Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, his brother and former Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart, and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. Romney also has gone after Puerto Rican voters, a heavy presence around Orlando. Romney is lucky that his hard-line immigration views probably won’t hurt him much in Florida, because Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens, and Cubans haven’t been subject to the same rules as other immigrants.
The Panhandle and Northeast Florida
This part of the state has a demographic resembling South Carolina, and that’s good news for Gingrich. He needs to score well in cities such as Pensacola to make it a close race against Romney. If tea partyers and evangelicals unite behind Gingrich like they did in South Carolina, this is where you’ll see it.
Rick Santorum’s performance
The former Pennsylvania senator halted his campaigning during the weekend because of the sickness of his daughter. And then he went to Missouri and Minnesota Monday. So it’s clear that he basically has bagged Florida, despite strong debate performances last week and endorsements from some significant local officials. Many evangelical voters, who have a heavy presence around the Interstate 4 corridor, still think Santorum is the man. Gingrich has urged the former senator to withdraw from the race and allow conservatives to coalesce around himself. But Santorum has made it clear he’s not going anywhere.
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