Florida Senate President Mike Haridopolos, a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate plugged into Sunshine State politics, said without hesitation Wednesday that Mitt Romney should be considered the "favorite" to win Florida's pivotal primary election early next year.
"But this is a wide open race," Haridopolos, who doesn't intend to make an endorsement in the GOP presidential primary, told Hotline on Call. "I'm not gonna bet the house on anybody."
Haridopolos, a key Sunshine State backer of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee in 2008, was effusive in praising Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, saying he would make "a very good nominee" and touting his impressive financial and organizational network throughout the state. He also acknowledged that Romney should be considered the overall GOP front-runner in the race, nationally. But asked about another former governor, however -- Utah's Jon Huntsman -- Haridopolos was noticeably less bullish.
"If we got 20 Floridians in a room and said, 'Who's Jon Huntsman?', I'd say maybe one out of 20 might know who he is," Haridopolos said. "I barely knew who he was."
Haridopolos also struck a tone of caution when discussing Florida's unsettled primary date, which will be decided by a 10-member commission he helped establish. Florida's primary is currently slated for January 31, which violates a Republican National Committee mandate designed to protect the early voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada.
Seeking "middle ground," Haridopolos said Florida will push back its primary to accommodate the early states, but didn't sound optimistic about waiting until after March 1, as the RNC requires. "We do not want to disrupt the historic states of Iowa or New Hampshire -- and however Nevada and South Carolina got there, God bless 'em -- but we want to be number five," Haridopolos said. "I hope that cooler heads will prevail here."
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