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Politics

Romney says he'll attend Monday debate at USF

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Published:   |   Updated: March 19, 2013 at 11:59 AM
GREENVILLE, S.C. -

Ending several days of uncertainty, Mitt Romney has committed to participate in two debates leading up to the Jan. 31 Florida primary, including the University of South Florida debate Monday night.

Questions arose about the fate of the Tampa event when Romney declined over the past week to promise to appear.

In an email statement today, Romney spokesman Ryan Williams said Romney "looks forward to participating in two spirited debates in Florida and showing Sunshine State voters why he is the strongest candidate to defeat President Obama and fix our economy."

NBC News also issued a statement noting that the debate will be "the first weekday primetime airing of a primary debate on a broadcast network in the 2012 election cycle."

Whether the debate would get national television play and whether Romney would participate seemed uncertain during the week, after senior Romney political strategist Stuart Stevens said in an interview Wednesday that there have been too many debates and that the campaign hadn't committed to either the Tampa debate or one in Jacksonville Jan. 26. NBC then changed its listings for Monday night, putting other shows in the debate's 9-11 p.m. time slot.

Rolmney's commitment to debate in Florida, a state in which he hopes a big win will seal his inevitability as the GOP nominee, came as he appeared to be facing a stronger-then-expected challenge from Newt Gingrich in South Carolina.

As recently as Jan. 10, Romney held double-digit leads in polls in South Carolina. As South Carolinians went to the polls today, however, Gingrich appeared to be leading—he held a five-point lead in the Real Clear Politics average of polls in the state as of Friday.

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