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May 04, 2007

What Florida's New Primary Date Means for Newt and Fred

Yesterday the Florida Legislature has passed a bill to move the Florida primary to the last Tuesday in January; this much you probably already know.

What you have not heard, or heard much about, is the huge implications this bill has for two men; Newt Gingrich and Fred Thompson.

We know an average of 10% to 15% of of Republicans polled, whatever that means, are holding out waiting for Fred Thompson to jump into the race and about 8%to 9% are waiting for Gingrich.  Should either of them declare, many more supporting other campaigns would likely jump on board.  After last night's Republican debate many are claiming the winner was Fred Thompson as it only proved he needs to get into the race.  It seems like they could enter the race and quickly gather the support needed for a successful campaign.  However, campaigns, especially national campaigns take time to develop, and time just became a bigger issue than before.  I've been one of the few arguing that time is running out for these two, and that if they are going to get into the race, they need to get in now.  My case just got stronger because as soon as Governor Crist signs the bill their time table is getting much shorter. 

Campaigning in Florida is expensive.  While running a nickel and dime campaign operation in Iowa and New Hampshire for the primaries might work, it won't in Florida.  Moving the primary is going to require campaigns to spend much more money up front and have state campaigns in place much sooner than normal, obviously.  But raising money and developing campaign networks take time.  Florida's primary, once the bill is signed, will be nine months away.  Nine months is a lot of time, except for a guy who has, to date, no campaign staff, no campaign structure, raised no money and wants to run a successful primary in one of the most populous states in the Union. 

Many seem to think that Gingrich or Thompson entering the race is inevitable, but unless we have a declaration from them by the end of the month, I would be surprised to see them jump in.  Volunteers, staff and money are already being quickly dedicated to other candidates and Gingrich and Thompson, should they decide to run now have less time to pick up the scraps than they had before.

On a side note, on other individual who may be dramatically impacted by this bill is Governor Crist.  The bill would allow him to run as a VP candidate without leaving office, which makes him a much more plausible option for the front-runners.  Maybe we'll see Charlie in D.C. sooner than we thought?

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