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Florida to GOP: We're waiting for our thank-you note

One would think an apology was somewhere en route. Arriving, presumably, just as everyone else was departing.

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It doesn't have to be elaborate. It doesn't have to be loud. Just something simple, heartfelt and preferably written on Republican National Committee stationery along the lines of:

"Oops, you were right.''

("P.S. Thanks for saving our butts.'')

For now that the polls are open today, it is easier to see why it was important for Florida to move its primary to the end of January.

And it is easier to imagine Republican establishment types being grateful that Florida is poised to slow Newt Gingrich's momentum.

Because a flawed nominating process could have led to a flawed nominee that many Republican leaders seem loath to embrace.

This isn't so much about attacking Gingrich as addressing a nominating process that allows relatively tiny groups of like-minded people an undue amount of influence in choosing our next president.

Just 10 days ago, Gingrich was looking like an unstoppable force. He was bellowing at John King on CNN, he was pandering to uber-conservative voters in the Deep South, and he was scaring the bejeebers out of party leaders.

Why?

Because too much emphasis was afforded to his victory in South Carolina, a state with roughly the same population as an 80-mile stretch from Miami to West Palm Beach.

Nothing wrong with the fine people of South Carolina, but their views are hardly representative of the rest of the United States. And yet their relatively minor numbers were seemingly causing pandemonium everywhere else.

Republican leaders spent the next week trying to undo all of the momentum Gingrich had generated by appealing to a particular type of conservative voter.

"The other states have a more narrow spectrum of voters, whereas Florida has a broad spectrum,'' said Art Wood, chairman of the Hillsborough Republican Party. "By extension, you could say Florida better represents the entire country.''

Predictably, after an initial surge in Florida, Gingrich now appears to be trailing Mitt Romney.

Again, this is not a question of whether Gingrich or Romney is the better candidate. It's a question of assigning more emphasis to a larger, more diverse state.

"Florida is playing a huge role in the 2012 election, there is no other way you can look at it,'' said J.J. Beyrouti, the Pinellas Republican Party chairman. "The two debates here were seen across the nation, and all you've been hearing from the national media is Florida, Florida, Florida.''

Four months ago, Florida was being chastised by other states and penalized by the RNC for defying a requested starting point of March 6 for all states other than Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina.

Florida had its number of delegates slashed in half and was criticized in a Wall Street Journal editorial because the move "has the aroma of an insider play to shut down the primary contest early.''

As it turned out, Florida may have the opposite effect.

The momentum from a smaller state will not have a disproportionate impact by the time Super Tuesday rolls around in early March.

Feel free to thank us later.

John Romano can be reached at romano@tampabay.com.

Florida to GOP: We're waiting for our thank-you note 01/30/12 [Last modified: Monday, January 30, 2012 8:08pm]
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