TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — In what is organized labor's first major investment in the Republican presidential primary, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees is spending almost $1 million in Florida on a television ad attacking Mitt Romney's business career.
Romney and his allies have had the Florida airwaves to themselves for nearly a month as the rest of the political world focuses on South Carolina's Saturday primary.
The new ad links Romney's business career to that of Florida Gov. Rick Scott. "Corporate greed. Medicare fraud. Sound familiar?" the narrator asks as Romney appears on the screen next to Scott, also a Republican former businessman.
Facing similar attacks from his Republican rivals, Romney has been increasingly forced to defend his years at Bain Capital, a private equity company where the former Massachusetts governor accumulated his personal fortune.
"A number of the other candidates are already pummeling Romney in South Carolina," said AFSCME political director Larry Scanlon. "We just think it's very timely. The Florida voters are going to be tuning in."
Scanlon suggested that Florida represents the last best chance to stop Romney's march toward his party's presidential nomination. He's leading in Florida polls, although Saturday's contest in South Carolina could shift the dynamic if Romney stumbles.
AFSCME will be very active in the general election, Scanlon says, but he adds that the union will take a "wait and see" approach on whether to invest any more resources in the GOP primary.
"We have 25,000 members in Florida. We have 1.6 million members around the country who have a great stake in the election of the next president," he said. "We've always been big dogs in politics."
The Romney campaign lashed out at the union once news of the ad became public.
"President Obama and his union cronies will stop at nothing to distract from this president's failed record," said spokesman Ryan Williams.