SANFORD, Fla.--Welcome to the tarmac-to-tarmac stage of the campaign. From here on out, it's air-time, not face-time, that counts.
The real hopscotching doesn't start until Wednesday, when the final pre-Feb. 5 primary, Florida, is over. In the week between then and Super Tuesday, each campaign will make tough decisions about where best to spend its time, energy and money--meaning that time-consuming townhalls will give way to quick rallies geared toward garnering local media coverage. But today's like that in miniature, as each of the three leading Republican candidates--Mitt Romney, John McCain and Rudy Giuliani--fly from city to city across the Sunshine State in a mad dash to reach as many voters (and media markets) as possible.
I'll be spending the day with Romney and posting quick dispatches from the road... or, um, the sky. By the time I woke up this morning, the former Massachusetts governor had already held a 6:20 a.m. media availability at an Texaco station in West Palm Beach--sadly, the Exxon he'd originally planned to visit was closed--and a 6:55 a.m. rally at the local airport. By 9:15, he'd flown to Fort Meyers for another appearance. Now we're at the Sanford airport, right outside Orlando. Panama City and and Jacksonville are still to come.
Meanwhile, main rival McCain (they're tied at about 30 percent in the polls ) is down the road at Orlando International, a much more substantial hub. (Sanford has IcelandicAir; Orlando, well, everything else. A sign, perhaps?) He's already hit Jacksonville and is on to Tampa next. And Giuliani, having already visited Sanford at 8:45 this morning, is at the Fort Meyers airport with now stops scheduled later on the tarmac of Ft. Lauderdale and Florida International University in Miami--the latter at 10:15 p.m.