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Paul's Fla. support anchored in Bay area

TAMPA --

If Republican presidential hopeful Ron Paul ever needs a change of scenery, he might consider running for office in the greater Tampa area.

The Texas congressman has drawn the largest chunk of his support in Florida from individual donors in Sarasota, St. Petersburg, Tampa and Clearwater, according to filings with the Federal Elections Commission.

By contrast, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich have drawn the bulk of their support from the deep pockets of South Florida. Romney, who touts his experience in the corporate world, has drawn his biggest donations from the Jacksonville area, home to corporations from Winn-Dixie to CSX.

Rick Santorum has his feet firmly in Southwest Florida and, as the race's most outspoken Catholic, is the only candidate to get support from residents of Ave Maria, the expressly Catholic community being developed in Collier County by Domino's Pizza founder Tom Monaghan.

The analysis is based on filings from spring and summer 2011. Filings from the end of last year aren't due to the FEC until Tuesday, the day of the Florida presidential preference primary.

Local support for Paul tracks with the region's libertarian tendencies, said Susan MacManus, a political science professor at the University of South Florida.

Paul benefits from this region's large student population, and he also draws support from people who want less military intervention abroad. Paul has said he'd like to bring all American troops home from foreign countries.

His calls for greater protections for individual privacy also reflect local passions, MacManus said.

Paul participated in this week's debates in Tampa and Jacksonville, but otherwise isn't campaigning in the state, which awards its delegates in a winner-take-all manner. Paul garnered 3.2 percent of the Florida primary vote in 2008, so his campaign is focusing on states where he's likely to get more delegates.

His Florida supporters, however, are undeterred. They're lining street corners across Tampa and its suburbs to wave placards at passing drivers.

Tampa resident and Iraq veteran Spencer Rogers recruited a group to do just that last week at the corner of State Road 56 and Bruce B. Downs Boulevard in Wesley Chapel.

more: http://www2.tbo.com/news/politics/2012/jan/26/pauls-fla-supp...



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