Jan. 31, 2012 Florida Republican Primary 

On May 19, 2011 Gov. Rick Scott (R) signed an elections law (+) that among other provisions established a ten-person Presidential Preference Primary Date Selection Committee which was charged with picking a date (between Jan. 3, 2012 and March 6, 2012) by October 1, 2011.  On Sept. 16, 2011 the members of the committee were announced (+). 
On Sept. 30, 2011, the Date Selection Committee voted 7-2 to set the date of the presidential preference primary on January 31, 2012 in violation of RNC and DNC rules. (1, 2, 3). 

While the Republican Party of Florida could argue that it had no legal authority to select the date and that it was the purview of the Committee, in Missouri, for example, the state party opted not to use the legislative date as controlling and instead set a caucus in the period set out in RNC rules (Rule 15b covers timing). 

In any event the RPOF developed its plan and submitted it to the Secretary of the RNC. 
The RPOF plan envisaged winner-take-all allocation of delegates, although the expectation at the RPOF was that it would end up with 48 delegates, 23 winner take all and 25 proportional.  After all, RNC Rule 15(b)(2) states, "Any presidential primary, caucus, convention, or other meeting held for the purpose of selecting delegates to the national convention which occurs prior to the first day of April in the year in which the national convention is held, shall provide for the allocation of delegates on a proportional basis."
  The thinking at the RNC was that a state can only be punished once, and that was accomplished by cutting of the delegation size by half to 50 delegates. 

While a number of campaigns built up organizations in 2011, by January 31 only three were actively competing—Romney, Gingrich and Santorum. 
(Nine candidates appeared on the primary ballot +). Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty racked up some early endorsements before bowing out after the Iowa Straw Poll.  Gov. Rick Perry appeared to have a solid organization, but P5 really undercut his campaign and he withdrew before the South Carolina primary.  Former Gov. Jon Huntsman set up his national campaign headquarters in Orlando, before shifting his focus to New Hampshire.  After his win in P5 Herman Cain built a credible organization, before being forced out of the race at the beginning of December.

Organization | Endorsements
Debates and Events
Sept. 12, 2011... CNN/Tea Party Express Debate in Tampa, FL.
Sept. 22-24, 2011... Presidency V Straw Poll plus FOX News/Google Debate in Orlando, FL.
-Jan. 23, 2012... NBC News, National Journal, St. Petersburg Times and Florida Council of 100 Debate in Tampa, FL.
-Jan. 26, 2012... CNN/RPOF Debate in Jacksonville, FL.

Republican Primary: Official


Speeches and Statements: Romney  |  RPOF  |  More Republican  |  DNC / OFA  


Although the Gingrich campaign came into Florida with momentum off its South Carolina primary win, the Romney campaign had built up a firewall in the state over the preceding months, lining up numerous endorsements.  In South Florida, for example, Romney secured the support of key Cuban-American leaders U.S. Reps. Ileana Ros Lehtinen and Mario Diaz-Balart and former Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart.  Romney also had a significant edge in resources.  The Gingrich team put together a scrappy effort, opening more than a dozen offices around the state in the closing week or two of the campaign.  Santorum also put together a campaign in the final couple of weeks.  The Paul campaign did not wage an active effort in Florida in view of the winner-take all allocation of delegates

But it was the air war that seemed to carry the day.  According to Kantar Media CMAG over $25 million was spent on advertising in the Florida primary, Romney and his allies outspent Gingrich and his allies by more than four to one, and "92% of all spots aired in the final week before primary day were negative (with more than two in three targeting Gingrich)."  For example, the Romney for President ad "Florida Families" made the charge that, "While Florida families lost everything in the housing crisis, Newt Gingrich cashed in."  In addition to ads, the Romney campaign attacked Gingrich in conference calls, web videos, and press releases on everything from his "grandiose ideas" to his work for Freddie Mac (+).  Gingrich had fared well in debates but he did not do so well in the debates on January 23 in Tampa and January 26 in Jacksonville. 

The 1,672,634 votes cast were 14% fewer than in the 2008 primary, won by McCain with 36.0% to 31.0% for Romney, 14.7% for Giuliani and 13.5% for Huckabee out of 1,949,498 total votes.  Gingrich carried 34 counties to 33 for Romney.  Romney did well in more urban counties, while Gingrich won more rural counties in the Panhandle, northern Florida and a few in central Florida.