ORLANDO -- The new chairman of the Florida Republican Party said voters in the Sunshine state are paying close attention to which GOP presidential nominee has the best shot of beating President Obama, and that electability is a top criteria in picking a candidate.
"It matters. Republicans, Independents and frustrated Democrats want to get rid of President Obama," said Lenny Curry, a 41-year-old business consultant from Jacksonville who has never held political office and was elected chairman of the party Friday night.
"I came into this opportunity under unfortunate circumstances. The former chairman, Dave Bittner, who was a friend and mentor, lost his battle with Lou Gehrig's disease. He asked the committee -- he endorsed me prior to him passing -- it was his intention that they would support me," Curry told The Huffington Post.
Electability has been one of the top arguments made by former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney for why he should be the party's nominee.
Curry was already on message in predicting, probably accurately, that Florida will play a significant role in the nominating process.
"Whoever wins Florida, I believe, will go on to be our nominee," he said.
Florida has not set a primary date yet but is expected to go fifth in the process, making it a crucial contest for the Republican candidates.
Curry understandably soft-pedaled when asked to weigh in on what Florida Republicans were saying about Texas Gov. Rick Perry's debate performance in Orlando on Thursday night. Party chairmen are expected to remain neutral, and Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) is a strong supporter of Perry's, though he has not made an endorsement.
"The presidential process is intentionally long," Curry said. "It's grueling. And that's intentional, and it's good for our country because it's not based on one good performance or one ok performance."
"You know you can't be a rock star for a day or have a bad day. It's long and it's grueling and it's about consistency. So I think all of our candidates did a good job at the debate. Some will have better days and nights than others. One will emerge victorious based on consistency," he said.