There's little doubt that the Republican candidate in the most-enviable position this cycle is Mitt Romney. He's going to show in Iowa and blowing away his New Hampshire rivals. And while South Carolina doesn't look so good for him (at least right now), Florida is a prize he's best-positioned to win. Unlike the smaller aforementioned states, Florida is huge (we have more electoral college votes than all the other earlies combined). This isn't a retail-politics joint. It's a TV state. It's 10 media markets scattered across six major regions.
And Romney has the money, the organization and the know-how to take advantage of it all. Last week, he hosted a Florida telephone town hall. And now he's planning to run this positive ad, "Leader, which has already aired in the other early-voting states. No word yet on the GRPs or media markets, but the Orlando-Tampa I-4 corridor is always a good bet.
Meantime, the pro-Romney SuperPac, Restore Our Future, has been up, running and bashing Newt Gingrich. While Romney's campaign ad appears to be the first of the GOP candidates in Florida, expect a lot more advertising (and less positivity) from him, his rivals and the SuperPacs as the Jan. 31 Florida primary draws near.
Who will be his biggest Florida challenger? It depends on who wins South Carolina Jan. 21. Who wins that? It might depend on who makes the gamble to largely ignore New Hampshire in favor of the Palmetto State.
Some candidates also might opt to skip Florida and focus elsewhere. This state might not be worth the treasure, as Mike Huckabee showed in 2008. Still, Huckabee lost to John McCain, whose Florida victory helped make him the nominee and shatter Romney's hopes.