Next week you need to know about . . . the Florida primary


As the race to become the Republican candidate for the US presidency moves to Florida, the four remaining candidates are gearing up for a crucial moment in the campaign. So far, three candidates have won the first three contests: former House speaker Newt Gingrich in South Carolina; former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney in New Hampshire; and former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum in Iowa.

Tuesday’s vote is a winner-takes-all primary, giving the victor 50 delegates. (A candidate must accumulate at least 1,144 of 2,286 delegate votes.) As an ethnically, religiously and politically diverse state with 18.8 million residents – 6 per cent of the US population – Florida will offer a better gauge of the candidates. That it’s also the most expensive state to advertise in may prove significant, as Romney’s ads have been up for weeks and the Texas congressman Ron Paul has focused his campaign elsewhere. This week’s polls have shown Gingrich closing in on Romney, with barbed exchanges between the two. On Monday, Romney preyed on Gingrich’s vulnerabilities, raising questions about his ties to mortgage company Freddie Mac and about his resignation as speaker of the House following ethics violations. Romney’s campaign has not been helped by the news that his effective tax rate is lower than that of average Americans.