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8 counties to watch in Florida's Republican presidential primary

FloridaGeography(1)Miami-Dade County: The most populous and most-Hispanic county in the state, where 72 percent of the GOP voters are Hispanic. Already, 54,000 people have voted here. If the population votes en masse for a candidate, it can account for half of his winning margin statewide.

Lee County: This is Mitt Romney country. He won it in the 08’ primary and he used it to showcase Florida’s mortgage crisis this month. 1:330 properties is in the foreclosure process

Orange County: It’s the state’s third-most populous Hispanic Republican county, home to a large Puerto Rican community where Mitt Romney showcased the endorsement of the island’s governor. It’s also home to a Mormon temple.

Pinellas County: A Republican county that has been trending Democratic in recent elections, Mitt Romney lost it badly in 2008 to John McCain, who lost it to President Obama. Its voters love to cast ballots by mail – 52,000, which could be 40 percent of the total.

Brevard County: Newt Gingrich was mocked for giving a lunar-colony speech here last week. Filled with rocket-scientists and evangelical voters, it’s a solid Republican county.

Pasco County: Midwestern in sentiment, Mitt Romney lost this conservative bellwether county in ‘08 to John McCain.

Bay County: A conservative tea-party stronghold, Mitt Romney won it in ’08. But, like much of the Panhandle, it could lean toward Rick Santorum or Newt Gingrich.

Duval County: Southern in its sensibilities with a large military community, this is a center of Republican powerbrokers and financiers in Florida. Romney carried Duval by his biggest margin in 2008.