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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Romney reconsidering Florida straw poll?

bitner.jpgRepublican presidential candidate Mitt Romney will send staff into Tallahassee next week to meet with Republican Party of Florida boss Dave Bitner about the party's Presidency 5 event.

Romney had said he wouldn't participate in any straw poll, but Bitner says the Romney camp is "rethinking" that decision. "They haven't totally discounted it," Bitner said.

Bitner expects as many as 5,000 Republican delegates to cast votes in the straw poll, which he said has accurately predicted the eventual victor of the state's primary election every time.

"I went to the Orange County meeting where they were choosing delegates and there was so much fighting in that room," Bitner said. "Romney's staff was in the room and they felt the same enthusiasm.

Romney is already planning to be in Orlando for most of the three-day event. He's participating in the debate on Day One and will speak to CPAC FL on Day Two. (Bitner said CPAC is also trying to nail down U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan and conservative personality Ann Coulter as speakers.)

Here's a response from Romney spokesman Ryan Williams:

"We respect the straw poll process.  However, our campaign decision to not participate in any straw polls, whether it’s in Florida, Iowa, Michigan or someplace else still stands. We look forward to bringing Mitt Romney’s strong pro-jobs message to Florida and campaigning there throughout the primary process."

Other nuggets from Bitner:

• He's personally talked with Tim Pawlenty, Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich about their level of involvement in the poll while party staff has talked with staff for Michelle Bachmann, Ron Paul and Gary Johnson. "Right now it's jostling," Bitner said. "I expect we'll have a full field."

• Bitner expects Florida to be fifth in the GOP presidential primary rotation. He just can't say when that will be or if Florida will be alone: Bitner said Michigan Republicans might tie their primary to whatever date Florida chooses.

"We've got a lot of negotiating to do on that," Bitner said. "But we are talking."

• Bitner had lunch with Texas Gov. Rick Perry during the RNC meeting in the Lone Star State this spring.

"I told him, 'My governor sent me out here to see what you're doing, because anything you're doing he wants to do better.."

Bitner said Perry laughed and replied, "Your governor is a stud."

[Last modified: Friday, July 8, 2011 6:39pm]

    

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