Florida’s Republican primary is starting to look as if it will be decided before the polls even open.
Mitt Romney has surged in a state where these factors help ensure victory: television advertising, an aggressive mail program to bank early votes, fundraising and high poll numbers.
Romney is dominating in every category. An expected strong showing in South Carolina, where the vote immediately precedes Florida’s Jan. 31 primary by 10 days, is all but certain to seal the deal for him.
Romney announced Wednesday that he’s advertising on Spanish language television — a must to win the Republican vote in the largest, and most Hispanic Republican county in Florida, Miami-Dade.
By contrast, his opponents have barely sent voters any mail.
Romney also said Wednesday he has $19 million in the bank. That’s more than his rivals and more than enough to bombard them through the airwaves in South Carolina and Florida.
At the same time, a new poll from Quinnipiac University showed Romney head-to-head with President Obama in Florida, whom he edges by a 46 percent to 43 percent spread. A majority of voters in the poll disfavor Obama’s job performance and say he deserves just one term.
The poll, though, appears to oversample Republicans relative to Democrats, a Democratic pollster noted Wednesday.
Still, Romney’s numbers stand out at a time that he’s being shellacked by Republicans and Democrats for his tenure as a venture capitalist with Bain Capital. His critics charge that he and firm made hundreds of millions of dollars buying struggling companies and firing workers. He headed the firm from its founding in 1984 until 1999.
“We’ve understood for a long time that the Obama people would come after free enterprise,” Romney told reporters, Politico reported. He said he was “a little surprised to see Newt Gingrich as the first witness for the prosecution, but I don’t think that’s going to hurt my efforts.”
Gingrich appeared to back off the attack late in the day.
In the GOP primary in Florida, Gingrich is second to Romney, trailing the former Massachusetts governor by 10 percentage points. Rick Santorum is a distant third. Rick Perry’s in single digits.
While Romney leads, Florida Republicans are already voting.
Of the 425,000 absentee ballots requested, more than 84,000 Republicans had cast them by mail. That’s nearly 70 percent of the Iowa caucus electorate. Romney has contacted most of those voters with at least one mailer. The other candidates have been largely silent.