Florida 2012 GOP primary election: Who can't vote makes Florida's primary powerful

1:55 PM, Jan 30, 2012   |    comments
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By most accounts, Florida is the most influential state to vote for the next five weeks.

One of the big reasons? We're so big.

Florida has four million registered Republicans. That's 17 times as many as New Hampshire.

Also, Florida's racial and ethnic makeup is much closer to the whole country's than any other early state.

But here's a reason for Florida's power you may not realize: Florida has a closed primary.

In our state, only registered Republicans will be able to cast a ballot Tuesday. Democrats and Independents will not have a say.

For comparison, New Hampshire has a partially closed primary. Democrats were not allowed to vote earlier this month, but both Republicans and Independents were.

How did that influence the results?  In New Hampshire, only three out of every five votes came from registered Republicans. The rest were independents.

And in South Carolina, voters don't register by party. So anyone there could step into the booth and influence the outcome.

Iowa has a caucus system, which doesn't really compare apples-to-apples for this.

What does all that mean? Florida should end up with a pretty purely Republican result -- something much different than the primaries we've seen so far.

And winning a true, pure Republican election is something the candidates for the GOP presidential nomination desperately want.

Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich will keep chasing that big prize Monday. Both will be stopping in the Tampa Bay Area.

Romney will be at a rally in Dunedin at Pioneer Park at 2:15 p.m.

Gingrich is holding a rally at the Tampa Jet Center, just north of International Plaza mall at 1 p.m.

Gingrich will be joined by Herman Cain, who endorsed him Sunday.

Rick Santorum is expected to campaign in Missouri and Minnesota Monday. Ron Paul is in Nevada, the site of the nation's next caucuses on February 4th.

Grayson Kamm, 10 News

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