ORLANDO (CBS4) – Republicans seeking their party’s nod for a presidential bid will be in Florida this week to go head to head on the highlights of their campaign.
On Monday, the first in a series of debate will be held in Tampa. A second Florida debate, Sept. 22 in Orlando, will kick off a three-day GOP gathering that will help party activists pick their favorites.
An early primary will be held in 2012 that conceivably could wrap up the GOP nomination.
It’s quite plausible that front-runners Rick Perry and Mitt Romney could roughly divide the first four contests, in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina. If that happens, Florida could prove the virtual tie-breaker, a prize so big in a state so central to presidential elections that the loser might struggle to stay afloat.
“My guess is that Florida is going to be the big kahuna,” said Brad Coker, a Florida-based pollster for Mason-Dixon who conducts surveys nationwide. Florida is much larger, diverse and expensive than the other four early-voting states, he said, and so it rewards the type of campaigning a Republican must do around the country to oust President Barack Obama in November 2012.
Of course, events over the next few months could upend that scenario. Perry, the Texas governor, or Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, might stumble. Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann could revive her struggling campaign. Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman might catch fire. A new candidate, such as former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, might jump in.
(TM and © Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)