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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

The Florida test for Ron Paul



ronpaul.jpgRepublican presidential contender Ron Paul has made it clear he won’t spend much money campaigning in Florida’s primary. It makes sense given the cost of running a statewide campaign and the state’s winner-take-all delegate system where the number two or three finisher will walk away with zero delegates.

There’s another logical reason: Paul never had much chance of doing well in Florida, which is the first contest in the primary season where only registered Republicans can vote. Paul does best in caucuses and "open primaries" where his army of devoted, young followers can vote Republican whether or not they have any strong allegiance to the GOP.

Florida, where Paul won just 3 percent of the vote four years ago, is the first real test of Paul among a true Republican electorate.It’s not likely to draw many young voters, who are the core of Paul’s base. In New Hampshire and Iowa this year, at least 12 percent of the electorate was under 30, while 2008 Florida exit polls found only 7 percent of the GOP primary vote came from people under 30.

How else does the Florida primary electorate differ from Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina? Here are some comparisons, based on exit and entrance polls this year and South Carolina’s and Florida’s four years ago:

Percentage of independents voting: Iowa -- 23 percent; New Hampshire -- 47 percent; South Carolina -- 18 percent; Florida - 0 percent.

Voters aged 65 and up: Iowa 26 percent; New Hampshire - 21 percent; South Carolina 24 percent; Florida 33 percent.

Self-described conservatives voting: Iowa 83 percent; New Hampshire 53 percent; South Carolina 69 percent; Florida 61 percent.

[Last modified: Friday, January 20, 2012 6:36pm]


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