Florida's state Republican Party has changed its primary election rules, moving to a winner-take-all system which will swing 99 delegate votes to the top vote-getter in 2016.
According to Politico
, the decision to make the change from a proportional system is the latest attempt to bolster the state's standing in the primary nomination process, and it will, given the large number of delegates it wields.
"The winner-take-all nature of this gives them the inside track but it also raises the stakes," said Brian Ballard, a Tallahassee-based Republican operative, according to Politico. "Whoever wins that one moves on, but I think it probably eliminates the other one."
Some are predicting that the contest will come down to Florida's own: former Gov. Jeb Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio.
"Both of them will likely have the money to go the distance, but I don't think it works to the advantage of either of them that it's winner-take-all now," Al Cardenas, a long-time Republican power broker in Florida who is close to Bush and Rubio, told Politico.
"Either campaign is going to see this as a high-risk proposition; if you're playing a long game, you'd probably rather it be proportional."
The Florida primary is set for March 15, by which time the Republican field is expected to be significantly narrower than it is today. It will also be early enough that candidates will likely have large amounts of cash to spend in the state's expensive media market, Politico said.
"Is it expensive? Yeah. Is it hard? Yeah. But there is no better proving and testing ground for these candidates than Florida," Rick Wilson, a GOP strategist in the state who's advised a number of presidential campaigns, told Politico.
"If you can run successfully statewide in Florida in the primary, it's a signaling mechanism that you can run a successful statewide campaign in Florida in the general [election] and beyond."
According to Politico, insiders have varying opinions about whether Bush or Rubio will fare better from the winner-take-all system.
"Does Jeb, even with all that money he's got, really want to spend $20 million to win his home state? I wouldn't," Ballard said. "Rubio, who's also going to be well-funded, is in the same boat. So it's not a great thing for them going in; but for whichever candidate wins, it'll be the best thing that ever happens to them."
Florida's new GOP chairman, Blaise Ingoglia, said the move to a winner-take-all primary — rather than proportional distribution — is driven by the aim to boost the importance of the Sunshine State in the nomination fight.
"The road to the White House runs through Florida," Ingoglia said in a statement announcing the change, according to Politico. "This now confirms that the road to the Republican nomination for President will run through Florida as well."
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