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Presidential Primary Has GOP Nervous

Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images
As the Republican presidential primary contest among candidates (from left) Rep. Ron Paul, former Sen. Rick Santorum, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Speaker Newt Gingrich drags on, party members worry that the delay in securing a nominee will hurt the GOP in the general election.

Santorum also failed to qualify to compete for the full slate of Ohio’s convention delegates, although he is on the Buckeye State’s March 6 ballot. In Indiana, there is still a chance Santorum might fail to qualify for the May 8 primary ballot. Gingrich, meanwhile, failed to qualify for the
Feb. 7 Missouri primary. In 2008, first-time candidates did not appear to experience similar missteps.

The Obama campaign, unburdened by a primary, is free to focus on the general election. Already, the president has 46 field offices in six crucial battleground states that could decide the race. Among them: 11 in Iowa; three in Nevada, including two in greater Las Vegas and one in Reno; eight in New Hampshire; four in Virginia; and eight in Ohio.

And just last week, the Obama campaign opened its 12th Florida office. That one, in Tampa, is probably not the last in this vote-rich metro area that also is home to the Aug. 27–30 GOP convention. “Nine months from now, our organization will be more than ready to turn out the vote,” Obama campaign spokeswoman Katie Hogan said.

In 2008, Obama and Clinton were bolstered by similarly strong organizations as they campaigned from state to state until the Democratic primary concluded in June. In this year’s GOP contest, Romney, and to a lesser degree, Paul, have been able to pivot from state to state with operational effectiveness. However, Paul has yet to win a single state primary.

Santorum’s shortcomings were evident when he followed his strong Iowa finish with disappointing performances in the next four states. Gingrich won big in South Carolina, only to lose big to Romney in Florida 10 days later.

The Romney campaign is alone in employing a sophisticated voter turnout operation complete with absentee and early voting programs. He has received almost 2,900 endorsements, and all are described by his campaign as being actively involved.

Romney’s team has “put together a top-notch organization because they learned from 2008,” Rollins said. “It’s impressive, and I’m not usually impressed by others’ ground games. But that’s the sign of a good operation. They’ve adjusted.”

The Gingrich, Santorum and Paul campaigns did not respond to requests for comment.

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