The GOP primary conflagration comes to Florida

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The following is a post from Ben Kirby, author of The Spencerian. Be sure to check out his blog here.

I guess they say a week is a long time in politics, and I’ve certainly found that to be true.  Just twelve days ago, a little less than two weeks, Mitt Romney was celebrating a win in his de facto home state of New Hampshire.

Since then, it turns out that Rick Santorum actually won the Iowa CaucusesNewt Ginrich handily won South Carolina, and Romney flubbed a question about his tax returns at a debate.  Add that to what most interpreted a lukewarm win for Romney in New Hampshire less than 40% of the vote, and the characterization by one of the most reputable polling firms in America that Romney is “collapsing” nationally, and you don’t have to be much of a political commentator to say that not only has Romney had a bad couple of weeks, but the race is now wide open.

And if Team Romney is looking at the broader numbers, they’re not offering much hope going in to the Florida Primary — the biggest yet with 50 delegates at stake, winner take all.

Back in the early days of this month, I said, “I don’t think it’s over-the-top to say that Florida could lock it up for the Republicans.  Even if Mitt does so, the legacy of this primary season remains the fight he had to wage to get there.”

To the second part, the proof may lie in the increased talk of a brokered GOP convention.  This would be a dream scenario for Democrats, and a nightmare-come-true for Republicans, mostly because it means that everyone would have a say in who was nominated for President and VP… and no one would be happy.

To the first part, Mitt needs a win here in Florida, and I understand he’s been running a lot of ads dinging Gingrich.  Gingrich’s unfavorables are (not surprisingly) sky-high.

Okay, my prediction: I give Florida to Romney, but just barely — and not just because that, aside from an outright loss to Gingrich, is really an ugly scenario for him and I want to blog about it forever.

My guess is Gingrich will win the conservative Florida interior and panhandle areas.  There will probably be some surprises from Ron Paul — who’s not even running here, but is still ahead of Santorum — in those areas, but nothing huge.  Around Broward County and areas north of Miami — Boca Raton, West Palm Beach — that heavily populated area will go to Romney.  These are the rich folks who didn’t understand what all the hubub was whenRomney said he liks to fire people.  Some of these folks live around Sarasota on down to Fort Myers, too.

I don’t actually know who wins the Miami-Dade anti-Castro area.  Probably whoever has a more successful “Obama is a socialist… like Castro!” kind of message, and I think that’s probably Gingrich, at least for now.

The real area up for grabs will be the I-4 corridor, from the tip of Pinellas County on through to around Daytona Beach, actually.  Don’t forget: that area cuts right through the middle of Orlando.

Between St. Petersburg and Clearwater, Tampa, Lakeland, Orlando, Altamonte Springs, Port Orange, Daytona, Ormond Beach, that’s a whole lot of people.  And, according to Dr. Susan MacManus, who is a Florida political guru at USF, “[n]early half of the state’s 4 million registered Republicans live in the Tampa Bay (25%) and Orlando (20%) media markets.

I don’t think the folks living around here are as crazy conservative as the folks in South Carolina.  That being said, if you look at the report from Dr. MacManus closely, you’ll see that while Romney won Pinellas and Hillsborough (Tampa) in the primary last time around, it looks like McCain took the rest of I-4.  And the way things are going for Romney, Florida is on-track to make this long, bad couple of weeks for the Romney campaign even worse, and even longer.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including,,, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.