DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - As the Republican primary race shifts its attention to Florida, Mitt Romney's campaign is looking to reap the benefits of a ground game they've been slogging away at strengthening since June.
The campaign has five paid full-time staffers in the state, a troop led by state director Molly Donlin, and there are three offices across the state, the campaign anchored out of the Tampa headquarters. They have county chairs in place in all 67 counties in Florida and have spread their staffers and volunteers across the state, with presence in Jacksonville, Orlando, Tampa, Miami and the Panhandle.
Television ads - three of them, to be exact - are on the air, and have been since Jan. 3, and a fourth, in Spanish, is also running. Mailers are also being circulated. Staffers have been hosting near-daily phone banking sessions since September and have made contact with the list the list of residents registered to receive absentee ballots, a list made public by the Secretary of State.
The Romney campaign has also picked up some high-level endorsements in the state, including Attorney General Pam Bondi, who is now a national adviser for the campaign.
U.S. Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Mario Diaz-Balart and his brother and former U.S. Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart endorsed Romney in November, and have since been chief surrogates working with voters in South Florida.
With nearly 200,000 absentee ballots already cast, a Romney aide said that it is their aggressive outreach to these voters that differentiates them from the Gingrich campaign, which outranks the Romney campaign in the numbers of staffers - 14 - and campaign offices - seven.
Romney himself has also put in time in Florida.
He held four tele-townhalls with prospective absentee ballots while on the road in Iowa and New Hampshire, making a specific push to lock in early voters as the other primary states' voting was underway.
He's held 11 campaign events in Florida since June, ranging from informal round tables to his Tampa headquarter opening to September.
Most recently, Romney held a grassroots rally in Palm Beach in January, an event scheduled on the same day as a high-dollar fundraiser in the state, of which he's had many.
Tonight he'll hold his first event since the finishing second in the South Carolina primary, a rally in Osmond Beach, Fla.