The issue of immigration reform, which simmered mildly during the first three Republican presidential contests, appears ready to boil over now that the candidates have reached Florida for the state's Jan. 31 primary.
Florida, with its large and influential Latino population, provides the earliest gauge of the difficulty facing any eventual GOP nominee in courting Hispanic voters, who increasingly view Republicans' rhetoric about immigration as anti-Hispanic.
Mitt Romney is reeling. Newt Gingrich is surging. Rick Santorum is hanging on. And Ron Paul continues to zig while others zag.
So goes the rollicking but inconclusive – so far – Republican presidential contest, as it moves from small-ball to big time in Florida for a Jan. 31 primary in which some 4 million state Republicans are eligible to vote.
Perspective? More Florida Republicans have already cast early ballots than all New Hampshire votes tallied for the top three finishers in that state's Jan. 10 GOP primary, about 197,000.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is campaigning in Florida following a big loss over the weekend to Newt Gingrich in the South Carolina primary. Romney told a crowd that Gingrich resigned in disgrace after four years as speaker of the House.
The Florida primary on Jan. 31 is the next nominating contest in the GOP presidential campaign. On Saturday, Newt Gingrich won the South Carolina primary. On Sunday, he was saying it's now a two-man race between Mitt Romney and himself.