Mitt Romney, fresh off a commanding victory in Florida's Republican presidential primary, will start receiving protection from the U.S. Secret Service and the Department of Homeland Security.
According to ABC News, who first reported the development Wednesday morning, the protection will begin late Wednesday. Federal policy allows major party candidates who've achieved certain fundraising and polling support to request — and receive — Secret Service protection before becoming a formal nominee.
The request is considered by the secretary of homeland security — Janet Napolitano — in consultation with Congressional leaders.
According to the Associated Press, Barack Obama received Secret Service protection earlier than any other candidate, a full 18 months before the general election. Herman Cain received Secret Service protection in November, before he dropped out of the race.
The AP reported that Romney's campaign requested the protection not because of any specific threat, but because of the growing crowds the former Massachusetts Governor is drawing at campaign events.
And according to the Washington Post, the Romney campaign declined to comment on the report. But the Secret Service has been preparing for a busy campaign season, requesting an increase in their budget to cover the costs.
"Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan told House lawmakers in September that 2012 will be 'a very demanding and challenging year' for his agency," writes The Post(). "In addition to protection for Obama, Biden and their families, the agency must provide protection for four former presidents and for visiting foreign dignitaries, and will serve as the lead law enforcement agency at a host of major events, including the Democratic and Republican presidential conventions."
The New York Times said Romney will be the only Republican receiving Secret Service protection.