Mitt Romney not committing to Florida debates

at 07:00 PM ET, 01/20/2012

Mitt Romney could skip some debates, labor is getting into the primary, Gingrich thinks he’ll be the nominee again and he’s attacking Romney on Spanish-language radio.

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WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED:

* Despite reports that Monday’s NBC News Tampa debate in Florida is being pulled from local affiliates, preparations are on and “we hope and expect all the qualifying candidates will participate,” according to NBC spokeswoman Erika Masonhall. Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney has not committed to either this debate or one planned for Jan. 26th in Jacksonville.

* A major labor union is getting into the Florida primary ad wars against Romney, an unusual move. The AFSCME spot attacks Romney’s alleged “corporate greed,” echoing attack ads from the super PAC backing former House speaker Newt Gingrich. It’s a $800,000 buy, and the ad will air through to the Jan. 31st primary.

* Action star Chuck Norris has endorsed Gingrich, writing in a column on World Net Daily that the candidate’s “experience, leadership, knowledge, wisdom, faith and even humility to learn from his failures (personal and public) can return America to her glory days.” Norris endorsed former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee in 2008.

* The Supreme Court today struck down the court-drawn Texas redistricting map in a blow to Democrats, although it’s not clear how the final lines will shake out. The justices also stayed a federal panel’s ruling against the map in West Virginia, ordering further briefing from both sides.

* Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R), one of the most popular governors in the country and a name on every speculative VP shortlist, endorsed Romney for president today. McDonnell has repeatedly argued that a governor or former governor would make the best nominee; in a statement he called Romney a “results-oriented conservative.”

WHAT YOU SHOULDN’T MISS:

* Republicans have gotten their man in Pennyslvania’s new 12th district — state House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, who helped draw the new congressional lines. Democratic Reps. Jason Altmire and Mark Critz will face each other in the primary for the conservative-leaning swing seat.

* Former Rep. Chris Shays (R), running for Senate in Connecticut, raised $522,145 in the fourth quarter — including a $100,000 personal loan to his campaign. Not a huge haul, but it’s Shays first quarter and he has yet to formally announce for the open seat. Former WWE executive Linda McMahon will almost certainly crush Shays in fundraising in the primary.

* Republican strategists have voiced concern that Romney’s harsh line on immigration could hurt him in states with large Hispanic populations. Now Gingrich is out with a Spanish-language radio ad in Florida attacking Romney as “anti-immigrant.” But Romney has strong support from Cuban Republican leaders in the state and this tack probably won’t do much damage in the primary.

* After a brief hiatus, Gingrich is back to predicting primary victory — this time with a precondition. “If we win on Saturday, with your help, I believe I will become the nominee,” he told voters in South Carolina today. Romney, meanwhile, said he was “cautiously optimistic” that he could still win the Palmetto State, but he also told radio host Laura Ingraham, “I expect that Newt will win some primaries.”

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