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Romney camp has presence in Tampa area

Published:   |   Updated: March 18, 2013 at 04:38 PM

The Tampa area is getting lots of attention from the Mitt Romney presidential campaign this week.

Romney appeared in St. Petersburg on Friday, vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan has been in St. Petersburg since late Monday preparing for Thursday's vice presidential debate, and Ann Romney will tour the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute today.

Romney, a breast cancer survivor who also battles multiple sclerosis, will tour the Women's Oncology Center, a clinic at Moffitt devoted to cancers in women. After that, she'll meet with patients and members of their families.

Ryan, meanwhile, arrived in St. Petersburg on Monday to continue preparing for his debate with Vice President Joe Biden. He'll leave Wednesday for Lexington, Ky., and the debate will be at Centre College in nearby Danville.

No public events for either Ryan or Ann Romney have been announced. Ann Romney will attend a fundraiser for Rep. Connie Mack IV's Senate campaign Thursday morning in Sarasota.

The Romney campaign wouldn't release details about Ryan, including where he's staying.

According to the campaign, he spent 31/2 days last week in Virginia focused on debate preparation, and he started on an additional day and a half of debate prep in St. Petersburg.

The stand-in for Biden in the practice sessions is prominent Washington lawyer Ted Olson, solicitor general in the George W. Bush administration and a legal counselor to other Republican presidents.

The campaign has been playing the expectations game in advance of the debate, seeking to emphasize Biden's debating experience: 18 presidential or vice presidential debates, including 14 in 2008.

"After the president's performance last week, we know Joe Biden will be coming at us like a cannonball," said Ryan spokesman Brendan Buck.

Reversing typical Republican taunts about Biden's tendency toward gaffes, a campaign spokesman said Biden "has always been a focused debater. It's not a setting in which he makes gaffes."

Ann Romney, 63, was diagnosed with a noninvasive form of breast cancer late in 2008 after her husband's unsuccessful run for the Republican presidential nomination that year. She subsequently had a lumpectomy and radiation therapy and has been considered cancer-free since.

Her visit comes during National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Moffitt is Florida's only location designated by the National Cancer Institute as a Comprehensive Cancer Center, meaning it does extensive cancer research as well as providing advanced treatments.

The designation usually involves several years of building research capacity in addition to a review process and leads to significant federal research funding.

wmarch@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7761
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