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Will Florida be Mitt Romney's fire wall? Or will it burn him?

Mitt Romney is blanketing Florida with ads and mailers. Newt Gingrich is planning a Miami-Orlando trip next week. Ron Paul is sending out fliers.

The Republican presidential race for Florida is kicking into high gear.As the nation’s biggest and most-diverse swing state, Florida has more Electoral College votes than Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina combined.

Without it, Republicans probably can’t win the White House. Romney’s win Tuesday night in Iowa made the Florida stakes even higher. It all but ensures that most of his rivals would not survive a Jan. 31 victory in Florida by Romney, if he lives up to expectations and wins New Hampshire.

“Florida could become Mitt Romney’s firewall,” said Greg Mueller, president of the conservative CRC Public Relations firm, who worked for Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s campaign as well as the presidential campaigns of Pat Buchanan in 1996 and Steve Forbes and 2000. “A Florida win by anyone other than Romney,” said Mueller, “would be a big boost for a conservative challenger, who would be catapulted into the South, which is loaded with conservative evangelical Tea Party voters who aren’t really Mitt Romney voters.”

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