FL may decide GOP contenders' fates - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

FL may decide GOP contenders' fates

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Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is lagging behind Mitt Romney in the polls. (Source: CNN) Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is lagging behind Mitt Romney in the polls. (Source: CNN)
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney raised $56 million for his campaign in 2011 alone. (Source: CNN) Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney raised $56 million for his campaign in 2011 alone. (Source: CNN)
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-FL, has said he would not accept an offer to run as vice president. (Source: CNN) U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-FL, has said he would not accept an offer to run as vice president. (Source: CNN)

(RNN) -  Rookie Florida Senator Marco Rubio has attracted attention in the past two days due to a mention of his name as a possible VP pick, and for his assessment that Florida could decide the GOP nomination.

Sen. Marco Rubio said in a radio interview Monday that Florida may be the linchpin in any candidate's aspirations of running against Barack Obama in the fall.

"Whoever wins Florida will win the Republican nomination," Rubio said.

About 1.5 million Floridians are expected to cast ballots Tuesday to select their choice for Republican nominee, plus an additional 600,000 who have already voted. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney holds a decided lead over the former speaker, and is widely favored to win.

Historically, Florida has been an influential state in the race for the president. The state gets to cast 27 electoral votes in November, the fourth largest number of votes behind California (55), Texas (34), and New York (31). On Tuesday, candidates are vying for the 50 delegates Florida has to offer.

The two frontrunners spent significant time – and money – campaigning in the state, sinking large amounts of cash into advertising. According to CNN, a pro-Romney superPAC spent $4.5 million on advertising, with a Gingrich superPAC spending $6 million.

Gingrich played coy Monday at a campaign stop in Orlando when he was asked whom he would choose to be his running mate. Gingrich said although it was not time to speculate on that critical decision, the rookie Senator "looks awfully good," Huffington Post reported.

Rubio has said he does not want to be vice president. But a Florida senator – especially one who is Hispanic and young – could be an ace in the hole for any candidate planning to challenge Obama in November.

With his recent "wife swapping" scandal, poor debate performances – and an endorsement from former candidate Herman Cain – Gingrich could use all the help he can get.

Recent opinion polls have placed Romney a comfortable 10 to 15 points ahead of Gingrich. An American Research Group poll gave Romney 51 percent of the vote among Florida voters who have already cast their ballots, with Gingrich way behind at 33 percent.

In the last three months alone, Gingrich has raised $10 million, bringing his total campaign fundraising to $13 million. It's a far cry from Romney's intake of $56 million in 2011.

Gingrich appears to have pinned his hopes on Florida residents voting in opposition to Romney, telling reporters in Orlando Tuesday that conservative voters would choose him over the more moderate Romney.

"If you watch tonight, the conservative candidates are going to get far more votes than Mitt Romney," he said.

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