Tampa, Florida (CNN) - Up against Mitt Romney’s robust campaign operation and facing a tough February slog, Newt Gingrich’s campaign is tempering expectations for two major contests and largely setting its sights on March, when a slew of southern states begin to weigh in on the presidential race.
Gingrich campaign spokesman R.C. Hammond told CNN Monday that Michigan and Nevada – two states that Romney won during his unsuccessful 2008 presidential campaign – will be difficult political terrain for the former House speaker come February.
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“The toughest one is Nevada,” Hammond said.
As for Michigan, he said: “If we are looking at the six February states right now and we are going to rank them, we are not putting Michigan first.”
“Our strongest states, you look at Arizona, you look at Minnesota, Maine and Colorado,” he said.
Arizona is a primary state, while Minnesota, Maine and Colorado all have caucuses scheduled for next month.
Nevada, which awards delegates proportionally, holds its Republican caucuses in just five days, on February 4.
Michigan votes on February 28. Statewide delegates there are awarded proportionally, and congressional district delegates are winner-take-all.
Romney won both Nevada and Michigan during his 2008 primary effort, and his campaign has been laying political groundwork in both for more than a year.
The two states remain bright spots for Romney as the race shifts to a national phase after Tuesday's Florida primary.
Michigan is central to Romney’s political biography: he was born in Detroit and his father served as governor from 1963 until 1969.
And in Nevada, roughly a quarter of Republican caucus goers in 2008 were self-identified Mormons - and most of them backed Romney in that contest.
Gingrich himself highlighted the Mormon factor after a campaign event Monday in Orlando.
"Nevada's tricky because of the Mormon influence, but we have a shot at it,” Gingrich said.
Still, Gingrich added that he will "absolutely" campaign in Nevada, where Ron Paul is also aggressively organizing.
Hammond, the Gingrich spokesman, claimed that Arizona is perhaps the most favorable battleground, in part because it’s “a strong tea party state” that will be receptive to the candidate’s grassroots-oriented message.
Like Michigan, Arizona’s winner-take-all is scheduled for February 28.
But Hammond also echoed a campaign memo released Sunday that said the campaign is mostly ramping up for March, when several large southern states like Tennessee, Georgia and Mississippi will award “a huge delegate treasure chest.”
“Our capacity to tell the truth about Romney's record is limitless,” he said. “We will challenge Mitt Romney and his lies in every state in every contest."
- CNN's Shawna Shepherd contributed to this report.