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Romney Plays the Florida Card...in Spades

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Romney makes more Sunshine State references in the NBC debate than Gingrich, Paul, and Santorum combined

mittromney11.jpgAfter seeing a double-digit advantage crumble in South Carolina inside of a week, Mitt Romney undoubtedly wants to put the results of Saturday's Palmetto State primary in the rear view mirror.

And so, on stage once again at the latest Republican debate Monday evening, the former Massachusetts governor made it clear on what state his campaign was now focused - like a laser.

A Smart Politics content analysis finds Mitt Romney mentioned Florida 13 times during the NBC / Tampa Bay Times / National Journal GOP presidential debate, while Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, and Ron Paul mentioned the state just nine times collectively.

If Romney's Florida-centric rhetoric seems like an overt play for votes, consider this: prior to Monday night's debate, the Sunshine State had been mentioned just three times across the last 17 debates by the entire field - two of which were held in Florida.

The Republican candidates treated the previous Florida debates, held in mid-September of last year, more to position themselves as they jockeyed for position nationally.

However, the Monday gathering in Tampa Bay was all about winning over Florida voters in advance of its January 31st primary - at least for Romney.

Romney managed to squeeze explicit Florida references into a variety of policy areas, such as the Freddie Mac housing crisis (multiple times), unemployment and underemployment, the space program, as well when delivering general attacks against President Obama:

"This president came into office saying he'd turn this economy around and everything he has done has made it harder for the people of Florida." - Mitt Romney

After Romney's 13 Florida mentions came Rick Santorum with six, Ron Paul with two, and Newt Gingrich with one.

In addition, candidates made references to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, the 'space coast,' Miami Dade County, Sarasota, and the host city of Tampa.

As for the cadence of the debate, the first half was largely defined by heated exchanges between frontrunners Romney and Gingrich.

Overall, although he was one of four candidates on the stage, Romney received one-third of the speaking time.

Romney clocked in at 21 minutes and 43 seconds, or 33.3 percent of the total candidate face time.

Romney was followed by Newt Gingrich at 19 minutes and 32 seconds (29.9 percent), Rick Santorum at 13:59 (21.4 percent), and Ron Paul at just 10:04 (15.4 percent).

Total Speaking Time During the NBC Florida GOP Presidential Debate

Candidate
Time
Percent
Mitt Romney
21 min. 43 sec.
33.3
Newt Gingrich
19 min. 32 sec.
29.9
Rick Santorum
13 min. 59 sec.
21.4
Ron Paul
10 min. 04 sec.
15.4
Data compiled by Smart Politics.

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Remains of the Data

No Free Passes: States With 2 Major Party Candidates in Every US House Race

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Political Crumbs

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Two sitting governors currently hold the record for the highest gubernatorial vote ever received in their respective states by a non-incumbent: Republican Matt Mead of Wyoming (65.7 percent in 2010) and outgoing GOPer Dave Heineman of Nebraska (73.4 percent in 2006). Republican Gary Herbert of Utah had not previously won a gubernatorial contest when he notched a state record 64.1 percent for his first victory in 2010, but was an incumbent at the time after ascending to the position in 2009 after the early departure of Jon Huntsman. Meanwhile, two sitting governors hold the record in their states for the lowest mark ever recorded by a winning gubernatorial candidate (incumbent or otherwise): independent-turned-Democrat Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island (36.1 percent in 2010) and Democrat Terry McAuliffe of Virginia (47.8 percent in 2013).


An Idaho Six Pack

Two-term Idaho Republican Governor Butch Otter only polled at 39 percent in a recent PPP survey of the state's 2014 race - just four points ahead of Democratic businessman A.J. Balukoff. Otter's low numbers reflect his own struggles as a candidate (witness his weak primary win against State Senator Russ Fulcher) combined with the opportunity for disgruntled Idahoans to cast their votes for one of four third party and independent candidates, who collectively received the support of 12 percent of likely voters: Libertarian John Bujak, the Constitution Party's Steve Pankey, and independents Jill Humble and Pro-Life (aka Marvin Richardson). The six candidate options in a gubernatorial race sets an all-time record in the Gem State across the 46 elections conducted since statehood. The previous high water mark of five candidates was reached in seven previous cycles: 1902, 1904, 1908, 1912, 1914, 1966, and 2010.


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