SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – The race for the Republican presidential nomination continues this week in Florida, with the primary in the Sunshine State scheduled for Tuesday.

The latest polls show that Mitt Romney has expanded his lead over Newt Gingrich according to likely voters in the state.

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But Tom Del Beccaro, chairman of the California Republican Party, said that no matter who wins, if the debates continue, the June primary in California could have an impact on deciding who the GOP nominee will be.

KCBS Interviews Tom Del Beccaro, chairman of the CA Republican Party:

“In year’s past, the ability to go through the long slog of primaries was whether you had the money and infrastructure to do that,” he said. “But this time around, we’re having so many debates, that Newt is using the debate format to reach voters. Plus, what he’s able to do online. If he keeps rising in these debates, than I think he can last.”

Del Beccaro said that he’s not sure why the other candidates have agreed to so many debates with Gingrich, who is using the format to reach thousands and thousands of voters. “I agree that the debate right now is ‘winability’ versus the soul of the party.”

Del Beccaro said that it appears to be a two-person race that is still very much up in the air right now.

“Will Romney or Newt do better in the long run? I think it’s still to be decided because Romney still needs to capture the spirit of voters,” said Del Beccaro. “They can rationally look at him, but he still needs to capture their spirit. They need to want to fight for him. I think he can still get that but I’m not quite sure he has it yet. I think he needs to spend more time invigorating them at the grassroots level.”

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Del Beccaro said the close race has changed thing for Republicans here in California. “This year more than any year I can remember, they’ve been sitting back and waiting. Usually, the money people get out first. But there was a lot of waiting with regard to that,” he said. “As far as the volunteers, Romney was the initial front-runner and a lot of people went with him, but then a lot of other people got into the race. As of today, there’s still this wait and see attitude in California.”

On a local level, there will be several Congressional seats up for grabs in November along with trying to find a worthy challenger to Senator Dianne Feinstein.

“I’d like to see them emerge, not only with backing of resources, but to make a big impact. Dianne is vulnerable. It is time for a new generation. But we still have a lot of work to do,” said Del Beccaro.

He said there are also a number of ballot measures that will be important to the Republican Party in California with perhaps the most important being the spending-cap proposal. “Jerry Brown wants a 21 percent increase in state spending over the next three years. That’s his latest estimate. It’s down from 27 percent,” Del Beccaro said. “We can’t afford that. People don’t have the money to bail out Sacramento anymore.”

Del Beccaro said he believes there’s going to be a ton of money spent in California on ballot initiatives and for candidates throughout the state and said the party needs to come up with a better strategy statewide to make use of those resources.

You can hear KCBS In Depth, a weekly half-hour news interview, Saturdays at 5:30a.m. and Sundays at 8:30 a.m. and 8:30 p.m. on KCBS All News 740AM and 106.9FM.

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