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January 26, 2012 1:32 pm

Florida Primary: Gingrich and Romney Deadlocked

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Newt Gingrich. Photo: wiki commons.

TIME – Newt Gingrich is promising to build NASA colonies on the moon. Mitt Romney is imagining Fidel Castro in “a nether region,” which one can only assume is a polite Mormon phrase for hell. Both men are all over the radio, putting on their best Spanish accents. No point in diluting the pandering: this is Florida, the primary big leagues, with more votes at stake than in the past three contests combined. And the latest TIME/CNN poll shows the two pack leaders running even. Here’s why Tuesday’s consequential Florida primary is totally different from anything the 2012 GOP race has seen so far.

It’s a closed primary. That means Democrats and independents can’t vote and there are no last-minute registration options as there were in Iowa. (The registration books for the GOP presidential primary closed Jan. 3.) This is most likely to disadvantage Romney, who’s performed relatively well with Republican-leaning independents to date, and Ron Paul, who collected a lot of atypical GOP primary voters in Iowa and New Hampshire. It’s one of the reasons Paul’s not contesting Florida at all.

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