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Afternoon Fix: Mitt Romney going on air in Florida

at 05:33 PM ET, 01/03/2012

Mitt Romney is going on the air in Florida, Rick Santorum’s nephew is endorsing Ron Paul, Sarah Palin wants Michele Bachmann to drop out and the Iowa caucuses are tonight.

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WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED:

* Mitt Romney is airing his first Florida ads tomorrow, a buy of at least $825,000 that will run through next Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary. It’s the same “Leader” ad that he has aired in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, and he’s the first candidate on the air in the Sunshine State.

* As Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) sinks in polls, former Alaska governor Sarah Palin isn’t lending a helping hand. “I don’t think it is her time this go around,” Palin told Fox News yesterday. “Perhaps she is one, too, who would start saying ‘supporters of mine, why don’t we coalesce around one of the other candidates.’”

* Awkward: John Garver, a 19-year-old nephew of former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum , endorsed Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) in a Daily Caller editorial, saying “If you want another big-government politician who supports the status quo to run our country, you should vote for my uncle, Rick Santorum.”

* Auto dealer Bob Thomas has decided to pass on the Indiana GOP Senate primary. The news surely comes as a relief to state Treasurer Richard Mourdock, who is challenging Sen. Dick Lugar in the primary. “It doesn't make sense to get in,” Thomas told Howey Politics. “We don't see a chance to win. I don't want to be a second candidate against an incumbent.” But that doesn’t mean he’s a Mourdock fan, he said — “Why elect someone to higher office when he's not doing a very good job in the one he's in right now?”

WHAT YOU SHOULDN’T MISS:

* Santorum headed to New Hampshire tomorrow, where he has been building up his organization since he started surging in Iowa. It’s an uphill battle: a Suffolk University poll of the Granite State out today has Santorum at 5 percent.

* Virginia Del. Bob Marshall (R) is considering a run for the Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Jim Webb (D). There’s long been talk that someone could take down establishment candidate George Allen in the GOP primary, but so far no serious challenger has emerged. In 2008, Republicans chose their nominee by convention and Marshall came close to winning. A primary could be much more difficult for Marshall, who has trouble fundraising.

* West Virginia’s current redistricting map violates the Constitution and must be redrawn by Jan. 17th, a panel of three federal judges ruled today. If lawmakers fail to produce a map that meets federal standards, the panel said, a court will draw the lines.

* Three top aides have quit the Senate campaign of Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.). Campaign manager Karl Hansen, consultant Chris LaCivita and finance director Heather Grote all parted ways with the campaign over recent weeks. Akin faces both state Treasurer Sarah Steelman and businessmanJohn Brunner in the primary to take on Sen. Claire McCaskill (D); no strong contender has emerged.

* The Iowa caucuses are here! How excited are you? We’ll be liveblogging here from 8 P.M. on. In the meantime, here’s a county-by-county scorecard, along with the six counties to watch. And don’t forget to vote in our prediction contest.

THE FIX MIX:

Happy Iowa day!

With Rachel Weiner and Aaron Blake

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