Skipping Florida smart for Ron Paul

Published Jan. 22, 2012

Republican 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 No. 2 or 3 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 younger than 30, while 2008 Florida exit polls found only 7 percent of the GOP primary vote came from people younger than 30.

Florida is different

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 Florida's four years ago:

Percentage of independents voting: Iowa, 23 percent; New Hampshire, 47 percent; South Carolina, 25 percent; Florida, 0 percent.

Voters aged 65 and up: Iowa, 26 percent; New Hampshire, 21 percent; South Carolina, 27 percent; Florida, 33 percent.

Self-described conservatives voting: Iowa, 83 percent; New Hampshire, 53 percent; South Carolina, 68 percent; Florida, 61 percent.

Gingrich in town

Newt Gingrich is scheduled to be in St. Petersburg for a meet and greet Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. at Tick Tock Restaurant, 8123 Fourth. St. N.

Spanish ad wars

John McCain crushed Mitt Romney four years ago in South Florida and among Hispanic Republicans, but this year Romney has some prominent Cuban-American pols in his corner. Gingrich is fighting back. Here's the translated text of a new radio ad Gingrich is running in Spanish:

"He is the most anti-immigrant candidate. Mitt Romney may have the fame, but he does not have the substance to be our president. In contrast, Newt Gingrich is a candidate that has committed himself to the Hispanic community. A Republican similar to Ronald Reagan, with experience.

"Unlike Romney, who uses statements from Castro, Newt Gingrich has fought against the regime … supported the formation of Radio and TV Marti and is in favor of holding the Castro brothers accountable for the shooting down of the Brothers to the Rescue airplanes.

"Newt Gingrich has given his word to the Cuban-American community in writing and will not let us down. This Jan. 31, vote for Newt Gingrich by punching number 12 in your ballot."

Here's how the Romney campaign responded:

"This ad is false and full of ridiculous claims. Mario Diaz-Balart, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Lincoln Diaz-Balart all stand with Mitt Romney because he has laid out a clear vision for spreading democracy in our hemisphere. By attacking anyone who supports common-sense border security and immigration reforms as 'anti-immigrant,' Newt Gingrich is once again reading from Barack Obama's liberal talking points."

Marc Caputo of the Miami Herald contributed to this week's Buzz. Adam Smith can be reached at