Brevard County and Florida will be key in days, weeks ahead

Jan 2, 2012

The following article was published in Florida Today on January 2, 2012:

Brevard and Florida will be key in days, weeks ahead

Iowa takes the first stab today at paring down the field of Republican presidential candidates, and Merritt Island resident Billy Propst believes the outcome will prove pivotal in Florida, where Republicans head to the polls Jan. 31 to select their GOP nominee.

“Most voters want to support a frontrunner, so they will look to see who is in contention and probably lean toward one of the top three candidates,” said Propst, a registered Republican.

Florida’s primary will be the fourth step in the GOP-nominating contest, following the Iowa caucuses, the New Hampshire primary, Jan. 10, and South Carolina primary, Jan. 21. Florida is considered a critical state for both the nomination and the general election because of the state’s 29 electoral votes.

“I think this election is one that Republicans are taking very serious. They know how much our fundamental beliefs have been impacted by the Obama presidency and want to find someone who will represent a different path to take our country,” Propst said. “Many also are looking at who would have the best chance of beating President Obama in a head-to-head race. The economy is going to play the biggest role come election time, I believe. People want to have hope the next four years will be better than the last four years and, at the same time, get our deficit under control.”

Opinions vary, however, on whether Florida Republicans will take heed of the Iowa caucus results.

“Some people might be swayed, but I don’t think it will have a big effect on the Florida primary,” said Barbara Davis, chairwoman of the Brevard Republican Executive Committee. “It’s just so different the way they hold their caucuses.”

But, Davis said, it’s way too early to pinpoint who will get the Florida and Brevard County nod.

“It’s very mixed in Brevard County,” she said. “We’re getting calls from people backing Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney, but there are a lot of Ron Paul fans out there. People also like Rick Santorum and Michele Bachmann. People are just wanting to hear more from the candidates.”

The candidates left standing after today likely will be stepping up their appearances in Florida very shortly. BREC will hold its annual Lincoln Day Dinner at 6 p.m. Jan. 27 at the Radisson Resort at Port Canaveral. Davis said all of the candidates have been invited to make appearances.

“It’s going to be a big month in Florida,” Davis said. “The Florida primary is going to be very influential in choosing a candidate for the Republicans. The Iowa caucus may weed someone out, that’s possible. But I think most have shown they want to stay in no matter what happens.”

BREC will not get behind any candidate until after the primary, Davis said. “But we do have campaign signs available if anyone wants to put them out.”

Lenny Curry, head of the Republican Party of Florida, said he expects the television airwaves to fill with campaign ads starting this week.

“There’s a lot of volatility with the candidates going up and down in the polls. I expect that will be the case in January as well,” he said. The RPOF, CNN and the Hispanic Leadership Network will sponsor a televised candidates debate Jan. 26 in Jacksonville.

“The game is on after that,” Curry said. “My recommendation is for people to continue to watch the debates. That’s the rawest form of open question and a back-and-forth of ideas.”

Registered Republicans are expected to flock to the polls at the end of the month. In Brevard County, more than 26,000 mail-in and absentee ballots were requested for the primary. That’s nearly triple the number — 10,716 — requested in the last Republican Presidential Primary election, said Brevard County Supervisor of Elections Lori Scott.

Scott estimates as many as 87,000, or 61 percent, of the county’s registered Republicans will take part in the primary election.

In September, presidential contender Herman Cain won the Florida GOP’s Presidency 5 straw poll. Cain suspended his campaign in the wake of allegations of sexual harassment and extramarital affairs, but not before his name got onto the primary ballot. Voting machines will be tagged with notice that a vote for Herman Cain will be a wasted vote, Scott said.

Propst said it’s too bad Cain is out of contention. He said Cain was appealing in that he was not a career politician, had fresh ideas and spoke what he believed.

So, where’s he leaning now?

“Personally, I think Mitt Romney is going to end up gaining a lot of support and will probably carry the nomination. He has been very steady throughout the entire process so far as others jump to the top and then retreat. Throughout it all, he has maintained a steady percentage,” Propst said. “When other candidates such as Herman Cain fall out or make a blunder of some sort, I believe Romney will be the one who is there to catch a lot of their votes eventually.”

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