Gov. Scott: Fla. straw poll winner will take White House in '12

Florida's Republican governor said Saturday that the GOP straw poll taking place in his state this weekend will determine who will take the White House in 2012.

"I personally believe whoever wins that straw poll, they will be the next president of the United States," Gov. Rick Scott told Fox News.

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The Republican presidential hopefuls will be back in Florida, an important battleground state in the race for the Republican nomination, this week starting Thursday for a debate sponsored by Fox News and Florida Republicans. Most of the candidates are also scheduled to speak at a Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on Friday in Orlando. The straw poll will take place Saturday.

Of the frontrunners for the nomination, only Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s (R) campaign has said their candidate is “fully committed” to the Florida straw poll, known as “P5.” Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, along with former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.), have said they will not campaign for the straw poll.

Scott said those names will still be on the ballot. He also said he is not discounting the candidates who are not officially participating in the straw poll.

“Saying you’re not participating is not the same thing,” Scott said. “Everyone knows what your positions are, they’re going to watch what you say in the debate, they’re going to watch CPAC. What’s the difference?”

The Florida constituency will be particularly interested to hear the candidates’ positions on Social Security, Scott said. “Every candidate’s going to have to answer that question of, how are they going to fix Social Security?” he said.

Scott said he has not decided whether he will endorse yet. “I really believe the Republican will win [in 2012],” Scott said. “But it will be the Republican with the best jobs plan.”

The P5 polls pre-nominated and selected delegates broadly representing the Republican party across the entire state. In 2008, Mitt Romney won the Florida straw poll, but eventually lost the Republican nomination to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).