Popular wisdom holds that a long and bitter primary election will hurt the eventual nominee come November. Drawn-out nomination races, the thinking goes, drain coffers and give rivals more time to gather ammunition. But many political analysts say a bruising primary can have certain advantages.
The four Republican presidential candidates debated in Jacksonville, Fla., Thursday night. It was the 19th debate of the GOP nominating season, and the last one before the state holds its primary on Tuesday.
Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum stunned political observers with his performance in the Iowa caucuses. But he finished fifth in the New Hampshire primary, and a distant third in South Carolina's primary. With just days to go before the Florida primary, Santorum is struggling to get attention as the news media focus on the fight between Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich.
Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, a Christian conservative who adamantly opposes legalized abortion and same-sex marriage, likely won't win Florida, and he's polling nationally at about 16 percent. But he could have a big impact on the GOP race in the Sunshine State and beyond.
There was a lot at stake. Debates played a crucial role in Newt Gingrich's win in South Carolina. Now, Mitt Romney is hoping for the same kind of magic in the Sunshine State. Rick Santorum and Ron Paul are hoping to break through.
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