Gingrich’s Florida Chairman: He’s The Front-Runner Here

Will run earned-media campaign in Florida.

ERIC THAYER / Reuters

TAMPA, Florida — Headed into debate where the other candidates are expected to try to murder him with bare hands and vice versa, Newt Gingrich’s Florida Chairman Bill McCollum says Gingrich is betting on his debating skills to compensate for Mitt Romney’s financial superiority.

“There will be money — there just won’t be as much money as Mitt Romney,” McCollum said when asked if Gingrich had the resources to compete in the state. “With all the debates we’ve had, the Republican voters are deciding on the basis of national earned media more than anything else.”

Gingrich is counting on tonight’s debate to give him the same bump he got in South Carolina — where two standout performances last propelled him to an overwhelming victory over Romney on Saturday night.

McCollum said he’s not concerned about Romney’s Super PAC exacting a toll on Gingrich like it did in Iowa, when it nearly sank his campaign for good.

“They’ve been running the ads since December here — maybe not the same quantity, but they’ve stepped it up recently — and here he is up in the polls today,” he said. “[Voters] are not paying attention to those ads.”

Gingrich took a high-single digit lead in a pair of Florida polls released today, a sign McCollum said indicates it’s his race to lose.

Asked whether Gingrich is the front-runner, McCollum replied, “Yeah, at the moment, I’d say that he is — but that could change easily.”

But he’s not betting on it: “It’s a race at this moment between him and Governor Romney, and I think that’s where he shines the best.”

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