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After Florida Win, Romney Aims for February Trifecta

After Florida Win, Romney Aims for February Trifecta

By Scott Conroy - February 1, 2012


TAMPA, Fla. -- On the heels of his resounding victory in the Florida primary on Tuesday, Mitt Romney will now look westward to three upcoming GOP contests in his attempt to effectively wrap up the nomination by the end of February.

Though Florida is only the second state he has captured thus far, Romney sounded in his victory speech as if he is already focused on healing intra-party wounds and pivoting toward a general election campaign.

“A competitive primary does not divide us, it prepares us,” he said. “And we will win. And when we gather back here in Tampa seven months from now at our convention, ours will be a united party with a winning ticket for America.”

Though Romney is scheduled make a quick stop in Minnesota on Wednesday, his attention for the rest of the month will largely be devoted to three other states whose elections could provide him with a sense of unalterable momentum: the Nevada caucuses on Saturday and the Arizona and Michigan primaries on Feb. 28.

Romney carries significant advantages in all three, which figure to be key states in the general election.

If he can pull off the trifecta of February victories, it could become exceedingly difficult for Newt Gingrich to rely on the subsequent March 6 Super Tuesday contests as a platform for yet another comeback.

While the other remaining GOP competitors -- Ron Paul and Rick Santorum -- aim to regain some momentum by performing especially well in Maine, Colorado and Missouri (the three states that will join Minnesota in holding non-binding contests next week), pro-Romney sources inside and outside his campaign suggest that none of these lower-profile states is essential to their candidate’s prospects.

“The perfect scenario is that he just wins everything and squeezes everybody else out of the race sooner, but if I were him, I might start to triangulate a little bit,” said Republican consultant Mike Murphy, who was a top strategist on Romney’s 2002 gubernatorial campaign. “If you’ve got to lose a Colorado caucus to do that, it doesn’t really mean anything in the nomination race. He’s got to start keeping an equal eye on the general election.”

Current top Romney aides were reticent when asked about the extent to which Romney will compete in the upcoming caucus states, citing concerns about revealing their strategy to rival campaigns.

But a spokesperson for Restore Our Future -- the super PAC that helped fuel Romney’s Florida recovery by bombarding the airwaves with a multimillion-dollar TV advertising blitz -- told RCP that it plans to air ads in Nevada, Michigan and Arizona.

The super PAC’s total ad buy for those three states is a relatively modest $650,000, but the amount could be increased if Romney is seen as vulnerable in any of the approaching contests.

Despite the organizational advantages that the well-oiled Romney machine could bring to small-turnout caucus states, his campaign appears to be treating the non-Nevada caucuses as something of an afterthought.

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Scott Conroy is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. He can be reached at sconroy@realclearpolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter @RealClearScott.

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