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Florida Hosting Yet Another GOP Presidential Debate

The candidates have yet to declare they are officially running, but there is a crowded schedule of Republican presidential primary debates already on tap more than a year before voting begins.

The GOP’s White House hopefuls will have yet another chance to debate in 2011, as Fox News and the Republican Party of Florida announced Monday they will co-host a debate in Orlando next October.

The Sunshine State is making a big play for more attention from presidential contenders. This is the second debate scheduled for Florida in 2011; CNN and the Tea Party Express are planning a debate in Tampa during Labor Day week 2011, the first debate hosted by tea party activists. Tampa is the site of the Republican National Convention in late August 2012.

The state party has also discussed scheduling a nonbinding straw poll before Iowa and New Hampshire hold their first-in-the-nation caucus and primary.

The Iowa straw poll in Ames has traditionally been the can’t-miss event for Republican hopefuls, and Florida wants to become more relevant to the primary process.

A senior Republican official in Florida told Roll Call that there’s been “very positive feedback” so far in response to the straw poll idea and that it’s likely there will be one in conjunction with the debate.

“We are excited that once again Florida Republicans will play a very prominent role in determining our next nominee and next president,” party Chairman John Thrasher said in a statement. “This will be a great opportunity for Florida Republicans to witness first-hand what will surely be a lively debate that will include our next president.”

More Republican presidential debates are being planned in California sometime this spring, in New Hampshire in June 2011 and in Iowa in August 2011.

For more from our At the Races politics blog, click here.

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