Romney’s advisers knew that two of the first five states would be trouble: Iowa andSouth Carolina. They considered New Hampshire and Florida firewalls to protect against multiple defeats that could unravel the former Massachusetts governor’s fragile front-runner status. They saw Nevada as they see it today, an exclamation point that could give their candidate enormous advantages heading into a slow month that could starve rivals desperate for attention and victories.
Romney had one other major advantage: a political war chest that dwarfed that of any of his rivals. But this was not accidental. It had been baked into the campaign’s calculations and preparations from the beginning.
Talk to any Republican or Democratic strategist who has run a race in Florida, and they will tell you the state sucks up money like almost no other general-election battleground. Romney poured millions into Florida and started long before all the candidates arrived after South Carolina. He spent freely on ads that savaged Gingrich. He was aided by millions more spent by Restore Our Future, a super PAC supporting his candidacy.
The months and months Romney devoted last year to raising money, the time he took going from fundraiser to fundraiser, the hours he spent on airplanes flying from one coast to another and back again in the space of a week were all designed to put him in position to run the kind of campaign in Florida that a winning candidate must run. He had money for ads and money for an organization that could turn out early and absentee voters.
If Florida was a mismatch, it was not just because Romney became aggressive or performed better than his rivals in the debates. The Florida primary was a lopsided campaign because only he had done what was necessary in advance. No wonder Gingrich was flailing in the final days before the vote