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Florida Primary Fight Has Hill Republicans Anxious

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo

“Mitt’s kind of had a low-risk strategy; Newt had nothing to lose, in effect, and threw it all out,” he said. “What Newt did, whether it was planned or accidental, he took on the CNN, took on John King — who I don’t think often gives us a fair shake — and people like that. At the same time Mitt’s allowed himself to be positioned as the establishment candidate when in fact he’s the only one who hasn’t been in Washington.”

Republican strategists who believe Romney gives the GOP its best chance to succeed up and down the ticket, in conservative and swing states, are beginning to worry about the possibility of a Gingrich victory in the primary, although they are not panicking.

Fresh polls show that Romney’s personal unfavorable ratings have sunk nearly as low as those of Gingrich, which have been stuck at above 50 percent since the beginning of the race. But the view among most is that Romney has room to recover and that Gingrich’s image is too defined and entrenched to change.

“For the first time people are thinking Newt could beat Romney, which is scaring people to death. Mitt has to win Florida or he will be consumed,” said one Republican operative who focuses on Congressional races.

However, a prominent Romney backer expressed confidence that the governor would ultimately win the nomination.

“I’m very confident that Gov. Romney is going to get the nomination,” Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) said. “He’s working very, very hard. And, as with any election there are always ups and downs. But he has built a national campaign that is prepared to go the distance.”

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