The race for the GOP nomination may suddenly be more competitive than experts predicted, but in the next big primary state, Florida, Mitt Romney has the airwaves pretty much all to himself, reports the Los Angeles Times. Florida is one of the more expensive ad markets in the nation, and running ads in the state's 10 major media markets can run $2 million a week. Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich each have a surprising win in early primary battles, but neither has much cash left—and Ron Paul has decided not to put much effort into the state because he has long polled badly there.
"Romney has worked the state continuously, one way or another, for the last six years," said one GOP strategist. "Gingrich lacks both the organization and the financial resources to capitalize on a win in South Carolina." Florida has long been Romney's "firewall," designed to lock up his candidacy should South Carolina go bad. Romney currently has a 24 percentage point lead in Florida, according to one recent CNN poll, and a Romney adviser calls his hold there "impenetrable." But the South Carolina loss, combined with a series of poor debate performances and a general shift in voter mood, has the Romney campaign more rattled than it expected to be.