Romney campaigns in Florida and Georgia, picks up key endorsements

Mitt Romney, seeking to solidify his position as the front-runner for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, is campaigning Thursday in Florida and Georgia, where he picked up a handful of endorsements from prominent elected officials.

The former Massachusetts governor began the day at Buddy Brew, a coffee shop in Tampa near the arena where the GOP next summer will hold its nominating convention, meeting with small business owners and job seekers.

Romney’s campaign announced the endorsements of three Florida congressmen as well as an influential state senator.

From Florida, Romney was scheduled to campaign in the Atlanta area, touring Kenny’s Great Pies in Smyrna. There, he was to join Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens, who also endorsed Romney on Thursday.

“Mitt Romney has a proven record of creating jobs, balancing budgets, and cutting taxes,” Olens said in a statement. “He has the needed experience to lead the country out of this economic downturn.”

The Florida endorsements were from Reps. Ander Crenshaw, Connie Mack and Tom Rooney, along with state Sen. John Thrasher, a former chairman of the Florida Republican Party.

“President Obama’s policies have failed Florida and the American people,” Mack said in a statement announcing his endorsement. “Mitt Romney has the experience to lead a much-needed economic recovery. He has created jobs, balanced budgets and cut taxes.”

Romney, in a statement, said: “I am proud to have the support of these Florida leaders. They share my goals of creating jobs, getting our exploding deficits under control, and reversing President Obama’s failed policies.”

Romney has been crisscrossing the nation holding dozens of private fundraisers in advance of June 30, the deadline for the second quarter. From Georgia, he heads west, holding events over the next several days in Nevada, Idaho, Colorado, California and Utah.

Romney was buoyed by a new poll released late Wednesday showing that he is expanding his lead over the other GOP contenders. In the Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, 30 percent of likely Republican primary voters supported Romney, with former Alaska governor Sarah Palin — who has not said whether she will run — a distant second at 14 percent. Business executive Herman Cain was third at 12 percent, with all other contenders registering in the single digits.

When the field was narrowed to six names, Romney’s support surged to 43 percent in the nationwide poll of 1,000 adults conducted between June 9 and 13. Reps. Michele Bachmann (Minn.) and Ron Paul (Texas) were at 11 percent, former senator Rick Santorum (Pa.) at 9 percent, former House speaker Newt Gingrich at 8 percent and former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty at 7 percent.

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