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By Wolf Blitzer, CNN
(CNN) - Florida is the fourth largest state in the United States. President Obama and the eventual Republican presidential nominee will be spending a great deal of time campaigning in Florida. That’s because this state goes back and forth between Democratic and Republican candidates in presidential elections. Obama carried it four years ago; George W. Bush carried it in 2000 (but just barely, as we all recall) and again in 2004.
That makes Florida very different than the three largest states in the United States: California, New York and Texas. The presidential candidates won’t be spending a lot of time in those states. They will drop by occasionally to raise some money, but they know that New York and California always go Democratic in presidential elections, and Texas always goes Republican.
By Wolf Blitzer, CNN
Jacksonville, Florida (CNN) – I am blessed with a great team of producers and researchers who have helped me craft a lot of strong questions for tonight’s Republican presidential debate here on the campus of the University of North Florida. First of all, let me thank them. Hopefully, I won’t disappoint our viewers tonight.
This will be my third Republican debate in this presidential cycle. The ones I moderated at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa and at Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C., I thought, were solid and informative. We focused on some of the most important issues impacting Americans. I will try to do that once again tonight.
The earlier debates had eight candidates on the stage. Four finalists remain tonight. That means each candidate will get some more time. And that is good.
My goal is that the voters in Florida and across the country will have a better appreciation of these candidates following the debate. I want the voters to know where the candidates agree and where they disagree. Undecided Republicans certainly need to know how each candidate would operate as president.
Four years ago, I moderated five presidential debates. Each was important, especially that final debate I moderated at the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles. At that time, only Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were left on the stage. The debate was substantive and important and no doubt shaped Democratic voters.
Having said that, I believe all these Republican debates in this current election cycle may in fact be even more important. Tonight’s debate will be the 19th. Millions of people are watching and learning and making final voting decisions. And that’s the way it should be.
One final personal note: I feel honored that I have this opportunity to moderate the debate. No matter how many times I do it, I feel blessed.
CNN LIVE: Tune in Thursday at 8 p.m. ET for the CNN/Republican Party of Florida Debate hosted by Wolf Blitzer and follow it on Twitter at #CNNDebate. For real-time coverage of the Florida primary, go to CNNPolitics.com or to the CNN apps or CNN mobile web site.
CNN's Wolf Blitzer, CNN's Gloria Borger and TIME's Michael Crowley break down results of a CNN/Time/ORC International poll showing the race tightening in Florida.
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