January 09, 2012 at 12:02 pm
#1 Who wins in New Hampshire and South Carolina
Iowa and New Hampshire have been the first caucus and first primary since 1972. In that time, only unopposed, incumbent presidents (and Gerald Ford in 1976) have won both contests. So, if Mitt Romney wins New Hampshire, he will have made the history books and will have real momentum going into Florida. While Florida is a vastly different state than Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina, momentum is always important in campaigns and, of course, in politics perception IS reality!
#2 Will Rick Perry drop out?
Who benefits from Michele Bachmann’s departure from the race after her embarrassing showing in Iowa? The answer is that her supporters will likely go to another conservative and Tea Party candidate such as Rick Santorum. If Perry drops out before Florida, his supporters might also go to Santorum, meaning the former Pennsylvania Senator could mount a challenge to Romney.
#3 The Latino vote
In 2008, John McCain dominated the Latino vote in Florida’s Republican Primary. This year, Mitt Romney has been campaigning with an eye to Florida’s important Latino vote. Romney picked up the endorsements by key Latino political leaders like Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and the Diaz-Balart brothers. He has also been using the Spanish-speaking media and having one of his sons (who is fluent in Spanish) work the crowds in Latino communities.
#4 Organization and money
Florida is a large and diverse state. It takes a lot of money and a well-greased campaign to win here. So far, the only Republican with enough money and a decent organization in Florida is Mitt Romney. He can pay for ads statewide and has an organization to help him “get out the vote.”
In 2008, the Republican primaries were winner-take-all so, even though Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, and Rudy Giuliani had decent showings in some early states, McCain received 100% of that state’s delegates. For 2012, however, the Republican Party changed the rules so that only states holding primaries AFTER April 1 could award their delegates in a winner-take-all manner. But Florida whined and, even after we moved forward of our assigned date (in violation of the rules), the state was given an exemption by the Republican National Committee. As such, it does not matter if a candidate has a good showing in Florida. The only thing that matters in Florida is who wins!
Robert Watson, Ph.D. is Professor and Coordinator of American Studies at Lynn University and the author/editor of 34 books on American politics and history.