Saturday, January 21, 2012

Newt Wins in South Carolina...on to Florida

South Carolina voters have spoken, Newt Gingrich has won big in the Palmetto State. Helped by his debate performances, Mitt Romney's conservative weaknesses, the Former Speaker capitalized and continues on.

Florida will be a significant challenge for him to win. It's an expensive state in which to run. Growing to become one of the more populated states, Florida has four major media markets in Miami/Fort Lauderdale, Tampa/St. Petersburg, Orlando and Jacksonville, so staying on the air can be a costly affair. Newt will have to have a significant bump in funding and his SuperPACs must also kick it into high gear.

As the campaign in Florida begins, each region leans differently. Newt's strong areas consist of the I-75 Corridor from the Georgia state line, through Ocala, to the rural outskirts of Orlando and Tampa. He is also strong in the Panhandle. But in these two regions, he will also be competing with Santorum in this area for votes.

Romney's strong areas consist of the Orlando Metro Area and Tampa/St. Petersburg area. These two regions contain more transplants, who are likely to support Romney, and are larger population centers. Newt will need to be on the air and knock on many doors in the I-4 Corridor.

Two areas of the state still up in the air are Jacksonville and South Florida/Miami. Both regions have the transplant issue, (not as significant in Jacksonville as Orlando or Tampa, but still should be taken into consideration) but in the case of Miami, it is undetermined which candidate will receive the Hispanic vote and that bloc will determine who wins South Florida.

In the coming 10 days, debates will play a large role, as will endorsements of major figures such as Jeb Bush, (who will likely endorse Romney) Bill McCollum, (who has endorsed Newt) and Marco Rubio (who I don't believe will make an endorsement but if he does, it will be a bit earth-shattering). Sarah Palin may also play a role if she reiterates her "non-endorsement endorsement" of Newt, as she's still popular in Florida. Candidates have to get out there, take advantage of free media opportunities, stay on the air as much as possible, and meet the voters; whether flipping pancakes with the seniors at The Villages, doing town hall meetings on the I-4 Corridor or articulating their conservative vision to the Hispanic populations of the state. Anything can happen in these ten days and it is incredibly hard to predict how this will turn out. I will be watching!

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