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The Buzz: Early Florida primary might be just fine by Mitt Romney

As the national GOP struggles to keep states from leapfrogging over one another and blowing up the party's carefully laid presidential nominating calendar, don't expect Mitt Romney to be wringing his hands over calendar scofflaws.

Just look at some of the states talking about busting the national party's directive not to schedule a contest before March 6: Florida, Arizona, Colorado and Michigan. They're all states where Romney should do well, either because of his ties to the west and to Michigan, or his resources to organize Colorado caucuses and expensive TV ad buys in Florida, where he already has support.

In the guaranteed early states, Romney should be strong in New Hampshire and Nevada, but no one expects victories in Iowa or South Carolina. After a late January South Carolina primary, Romney could pick up real momentum in a series of elections, starting with Florida.

Last week brought no more clarity to the calendar. The Republican National Committee rules committee meeting in Tampa tabled taking action on a proposal to impose stricter penalties on violating states, including assigning lousy hotels and yanking floor passes.

Legislative leaders will set Florida's presidential primary date by Oct. 1, but our hunch is it will be in late January or February.

Pawlenty's pitch

Check out Republican presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty on Bay News 9's Political Connections today at 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. The former Minnesota governor talks about everything from competing in Florida, to overcoming Michele Bachmann to Medicare costs and offshore drilling.

Bill Foster a no-show

GOP heavyweights from around the country gathered Wednesday night at a Tampa Yacht & Country Club reception as part of the Republican National Committee's three-day summer meeting in Tampa.

To welcome them, the roster of state and local officials included Gov. Rick Scott, Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll, state Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, former Gov. Bob Martinez and Clearwater Mayor Frank Hibbard, all Republicans, plus Bob Buckhorn, the Democratic mayor of Tampa, and former Tampa Mayor Dick Greco, also a Democrat.

A notable no-show: St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster, a Republican. He was invited, but had a prior engagement to speak at Bethel Metropolitan Baptist Church.

Buckhorn, who interrupted a family vacation to fly home from North Carolina and attend the reception, noted that Bill Harris, chief executive officer of the convention, has told him that the GOP tends to hold its best conventions in cities with Democratic mayors. The GOP's 2000 convention in Philadelphia, courtesy of then-Mayor Ed Rendell, was a noteworthy success, he said.

Buckhorn told the group his goal is to help the GOP put on a convention next year that's so smooth and memorable that Harris will forget about Rendell.

Gingriches are coming

On Sept. 13, the Tampa Bay Young Republicans will host Newt and Callista Gingrich, though the visit may have more to do with their business interests than his flagging presidential campaign. They will screen their documentary about American exceptionalism, A City Upon a Hill, and do a book signing.

Scott staff changes

More changes in Gov. Rick Scott's office: Special counsel Hayden Dempsey, who oversaw legislative affairs and was one of the few Tallahassee veterans to join the Scott administration early on, is leaving. Seen as a contender for chief of staff before Scott appointed Steve MacNamara, Dempsey hasn't announced his next job. The new legislative affairs director will be former lobbyist Jon Costello, who previously worked under Dempsey, and for the Scott campaign.

Ugly quote of week

"Don't walk too far away from here. It gets seedy as hell." — Overheard at the Marriott Waterside in Tampa from a Republican National Committee member attending the group's summer meeting last week.

Big GOP bash

The Conservative Political Action Committee's (CPAC) Sept. 23 Florida lineup is a conservative dream. Presidential candidates Bachmann, Herman Cain, Gingrich, Jon Huntsman, Gary Johnson, Thaddeus McCotter, Pawlenty, Romney and Rick Santorum are confirmed. American Conservative Union organizers have also added Ann Coulter to the roster of pundits and personalities, which include Bill Kristol, Grover Norquist, Ralph Reed and Jim Talent.

Times staff writers Michael C. Bender, Richard Danielson and Alex Leary contributed to this week's Buzz.

Winner of the week

Rick Scott. Bob Graham-like workdays drawing great press. Comfortable, free-wheeling engagement with reporters. Even poll numbers ticking up to the point where he is now merely loathed by Florida voters, rather than despised. Anybody else get the sense Gov. Scott may finally be getting his sea legs after a very shaky start?

Loser of the week

Barack Obama. A Quinnipiac University poll finds Florida independent voters — the ones who decide elections — disapprove of Obama's performance nearly 2-to-1. He has serious work to do to win Florida's 29 electoral votes.

The Buzz: Early Florida primary might be just fine by Mitt Romney 08/06/11 [Last modified: Saturday, August 6, 2011 9:10pm]
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