MIAMI- Probable 2012 presidential GOP candidate Mitt Romney is visiting Florida this week, and even though he has yet to announce that he is running for president, he is picking up key support, and ground pieces in potentially the most crucial swing state in next year's election.
The former chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, and powerful state senator John Thrasher said Thursday that he is supporting Romney if the former Massachusetts governor announces his bid for the White House.
"If Governor Romney decides to run for President in 2012, I will absolutely be supporting him and helping him in Florida," Thrasher said via email to FOX. "He would be a great GOP nominee."
Romney had planned to travel to Tallahassee as well Thursday for meetings with top Florida Republicans including Gov. Rick Scott, Thrasher, and Florida Senate President Mike Haridopolos who has announced his 2012 Senate campaign against Democrat U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson. However, Romney's trip was cancelled due to the bad weather in Northern Florida Wednesday.
A Romney source confirms that key fund-raiser Meredith O'Rourke, who was a top finance director for former Florida governor Charlie Crist, is now a finance consultant to Romney's Free and Strong America PAC. O'Rourke is helping Romney during his meetings with potential Florida donors and supporters--one reception in Wednesday in Fort Lauderdale, and one in Crist's home town of St Petersburg Thursday.
Romney also announced today that his PAC had donated a total of $93,000 to 45 Republicans in Congress-- a total amount of over $300,00 to 90 House and Senate GOP Republicans since the beginning of 2011.
"There are many important issues facing Congress and the nation. By showing our support for Republican candidates who are fighting for conservative principles in Washington, we hope to influence the national debate on jobs, taxes, the economy and the budget," said Romney in a statement.
The PAC donations including 4 members of the Florida Congressial delegation: Congressmen Ander Crenshaw, Steve Southerland, Daniel Webster and Tea Party favorite Allen West.
Attention from potential 2012 presidential candidates could increase due to a significant Florida GOP move that has led to an inner-party squabble between Florida Republicans and the national party. Like they tried in 2008, Florida lawmakers have pushed the Sunshine state's primary to late January in violation of RNC rules that say no state can go ahead of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada or South Carolina. Some at the RNC have cried foul, and have threatened to pull the Republican National Convention from Tampa, if the Florida leaves the primary in its current place.
"No Republican can win the presidency of the United States without winning the state of Florida so it behooves us to make sure that our nominee is someone that is palatable in Florida,"U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), rumored as a GOP VP short-lister, said last month. "If the RNC thinks the way to win Florida is to sanction the most important swing state in the country, then good luck to them."
Even if the Florida GOP blinks first in their stare down with the RNC as they did in 2008 and moves the primary back, the Sunshine state still remains an important primary election, and serves as a microcosm for many national issues that will play a significant role in 2012, like immigration, education, and, of course, health care.