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The Florida Effect

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CNN Florida Debate

I didn’t watch the debate last night, having long ago committed to an event honoring the 200th anniversary of newspapers in Connecticut Western Reserve. By the time I got back from the event, the debate was over, and so I consulted my Twitter feed of dozens of opinion mavens and discovered that Rick Santorum had a very good night, Romney a strong one, and that Gingrich had endured by far his worst debate performance. The chattering class issued a collective assessment that Newt had been thrashed.

Given that both the new Sunshine State and Qunnipiac polls put Romney ahead by 9 points prior to the debate, and given as well that Romney is widely acknowledged to have a lead in the absentees and early voting, Florida is shaping up as a win for Romney though not perhaps by more than a few points given the volatility of the contest.

I said on Monday that the winner of Florida would be the GOP nominee, and that was when Gingrich was 9 points ahead. It seems as though Florida understands its crucial position and perhaps decisive influence, and voters are paying attention and are energized. Given the state’s enormous importance in the fall, this is a great place to have such a showdown, and while the race won’t be over on Wednesday morning, it will almost certainly have been decided by then, barring a meltdown by or a revelation about the winner.

In Ohio the local GOP is very excited about having the Buckeye State finally matter to a GOP nomination via its vote on Super Tuesday. The chairman of the Cuyahoga County Republican Party, Rob Frost, came by my Cleveland affiliate’s studios during Wednesday’s program to talk about the energy in the grassroots, and the great campaign shaping up to put Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel into the Senate. The party’s annual Lincoln Dinner is February 16. The guest of honor? Mitt Romney. Today, judging solely from the reflected assessments of the media elites both right and left, that was a very good call by the Committee when it was made months ago.

Back to California so traveling and off the air today.’s Larry O’Connor fills in for me today, and despite his Michigan roots, he appears able to handle the dials and use complete sentences. Thanks to Larry and to all those twittering pundits who watched the debate so I wouldn’t have to.


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