What Florida does is allows any of the candidates to attempt to "shoot the moon" by winning Florida, even if they lose Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. Its a pretty large prize early.
Currently, John McCain and Mitt Romney have been fighting for the state, with the other candidates coming late to the game. The largest prize would be the endorsement of former governor Jeb Bush, but because that has not been forthcoming, John and Mitt have been fighting over Jeb's surrogates.
Earliest among the Bush-Romney operatives were Sally Bradshaw, who has advised Jeb Bush on political issues for years, and Ann Herberger, who managed the former governor's money portion of his campaigns and who is now Romney's national finance adviser. They both came on board last year.
Mandy Fletcher, another former associate of Jeb Bush, is the state campaign director for Romney. And Kristy Campbell, one of Bush's former press secretaries, has signed on with the Romney campaign.
McCain hasn't done poorly either, although his Florida campaign staff is not yet as fully operational as Romney's.
McCain has former vice chair of the Republican Party, Allison DeFoor, and former deputy chief of staff for Bush, Cory Tilley.
Signed on to McCain's Florida advisory committee are former state Attorney General Jim Smith; Mac Stipanovich, who was chief of staff for former Gov.Bob Martinez and a senior adviser to Jeb Bush's 1994 campaign for governor; and Antonio Villamil, a former economy adviser for Bush.
So, currently, Mitt has the lead in gathering Jeb Bush's network, but McCain is a close second.
No word yet on what Rudy has accomplished in gathering operatives, but he is polling well in Florida.
Tot Men Wom
Giuliani 29% 24% 34%
McCain 23 31 15
Romney 6 5 6
Gingrich 14 17 10
For all voters, Rudy does well at 60% to 20% favorable/unfavorable, McCain at 50% to 21%, and Romney unknown by 75% of voters.
To make up for that 75% Romney is engaging in unconventional politics to make up the difference. He is sending campaign representatives to the smallest party events and running Spanish language adds in South Florida.
Finally, word is that Jeb isn't being quite as neutral as he previously let on.
Jeb Bush, who hasn't publicly picked a favorite in the Republican presidential race, privately is talking up the candidacy of Mitt Romney and steering some of his closest advisers to the campaign.Should be fun.
The former Florida governor has said repeatedly he won't be a candidate in 2008 despite encouragement from his father, the former president, and his brother, the current one. But Jeb Bush's support, even tacit, would be critical in the state that decided the 2000 presidential election.
"Governor Bush said, 'Before you commit, I want you to meet Mitt Romney. He is the kind of guy you will like no matter what,'" said former Lt. Gov. Toni Jennings. "The governor was very candid about the fact that he really liked this guy."