Mitt Romney seeks to end GOP contest in January

at 02:00 PM ET, 01/03/2012

Mitt Romney is preparing a broad strategy after Iowa’s caucuses tonight, apparently hoping to close out the GOP presidential contest before the calendar turns to February.

The Post’s Phil Rucker reported last night that the former Massachusetts governor will head to South Carolina later this week, a sign he is prepared to fight in a state that has been less than hospitable to him since 2008. And a GOP source tells The Fix that Romney’s campaign is going up with an ad buy in Florida starting tomorrow. (New Hampshire is set to hold a primary on Jan. 10 followed by South Carolina on Jan. 21 and Florida on Jan. 31.)

The Florida ad buy is at least $825,000, starts Wednesday, and will run through next Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary. It comes on top of a $1 million ad buy already launched in South Carolina and Florida by Restore Our Future, a super PAC supporting Romney’s candidacy.

Romney’s campaign did not responded to a request for comment. The ad buy would make him the first candidate to go up on the air in the Sunshine State.

The total picture is one of a frontrunner hoping to finish well in all four January contests and, in so doing, effectively end the nomination fight. Romney’s early focus on New Hampshire seems to have given way to a broader strategy in which he and his supporters will put real resources and time into South Carolina and Florida.

Romney, at this point, is the only candidate in the field with the financial and staffing strength to run a series of simultaneous campaigns in the first four voting states. Most of his opponents seem likely to focus on South Carolina — overlooking New Hampshire almost entirely — as their best and perhaps last chance to slow his momentum.

Of course, whether Romney can secure the nomination in January depends a lot on how he finishes tonight in Iowa. A win makes the likelihood of the race ending by the end of this month considerably more likely.

Updated at 5:20 p.m. to reflect an increase in Romney’s Florida ad buy from $770,000 to $825,000.

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