Romney wins big in Florida, routing Gingrich

Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2012 8:25 PM
Last updated Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2012 3:15 AM
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TAMPA, Fla. — Mitt Romney routed Newt Gingrich in the Florida primary Tuesday night, rebounding smartly from an earlier defeat and taking a major step toward the Republican presidential nomination. Gingrich vowed to press on despite the one-sided setback

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Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney waves to supporters during his victory celebration in Tampa, Fla., after winning the state's primary election.  GERALD HERBERT/ASSOCIATED PRESS
GERALD HERBERT/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney waves to supporters during his victory celebration in Tampa, Fla., after winning the state's primary election.

Romney, talking unity like a nominee, said he was ready to take the Republican helm and “lead this party and our nation.” In remarks to cheering supporters, the former Massachusetts governor unleashed a strong attack on Democratic President Obama and said the competitive fight for the GOP nomination “does not divide us, it prepares us” for the fall campaign.

“Mr. President, you were elected to lead, you chose to follow, and now it’s time to get out of the way,” he declared.

Returns from 98 percent of Florida’s precincts showed Romney with 46 percent of the vote to 32 percent for Gingrich, the former House speaker.

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum had 13 percent, and Texas Rep. Ron Paul 7 percent. Neither mounted a substantial effort in the state.

For the first time in the campaign, exit polls showed a gender gap, and it worked to Romney’s advantage.

He was leading Gingrich 52-28 among women voters and was winning men by a far smaller margin of 41-36.

Ominously for the thrice-married Gingrich, only about half of women voters said they had a favorable view of him as a person, compared to about eight in 10 for Romney.

Nor was Romney’s victory a narrow one. His winning percentage approached 50 percent and a majority that would demolish Gingrich’s oft-stated contention that the voters who oppose Romney outnumber those who favor him.

Still, the former speaker said, “We’re going to contest everyplace and we are going to win.”

As in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, about half of Florida primary voters said the most important factor for them was backing a candidate who could defeat Obama in November, according to exit poll results conducted for The Associated Press and the television networks.

Not surprisingly, in a state with an unemployment rate hovering around 10 percent, about two-thirds of voters said the economy was their top issue. Nearly nine in 10 said they were falling behind or just keeping up. And half said that home foreclosures have been a major problem in their communities.

The winner-take-all primary was worth 50 Republican National Convention delegates, by far the most of any primary state so far. That gave Romney a total of 87, to 26 for Gingrich, 14 for Santorum and four for Paul, with 1,144 required to clinch the nomination.

But the bigger prize was precious political momentum in the race to pick an opponent for Obama in a nation struggling to recover from the deepest recession in decades.

That belonged to Romney when he captured the New Hampshire primary three weeks ago, then swung stunningly to Gingrich when he countered with a South Carolina upset 11 days later.

Now it was back with the former Massachusetts governor, after a 10-day comeback marked by a change to more aggressive tactics, coupled with an efficient use of an overwhelming financial advantage to batter Gingrich in television commercials.

Gingrich brushed aside any talk of quitting the race.

“We are going to contest everyplace,” he said, standing in front of a sign that read “46 states to go.”

“It is now clear that this will be a two-person race between the conservative leader, Newt Gingrich, and the Massachusetts moderate,” he said.

Santorum disagreed, and said so. In Nevada, where he was campaigning for the state’s caucuses on Saturday, he said, “Newt Gingrich had his chance, had his shot, had a big boost and win out in South Carolina and couldn’t hold it.” He said the voters are “looking for a different conservative and alternative to Mitt Romney now.”

Already, Romney and restore Our Future, an organization that supports him, were outadvertising the field in Nevada. Figures provided to the AP showed the two combined had spent $370,000 so far. Paul has spent $209,000, but neither Gingrich nor Santorum had aired any commercials.

Romney won the Nevada caucuses four years ago and is favored to repeat his triumph this Saturday. Caucuses in Colorado, Minnesota and Maine follow, with primaries in Wisconsin on Feb. 21 and in Michigan and Arizona at the end of the month.

Gingrich, from neighboring Georgia, swept into Florida from South Carolina, only to run headlong into a different Romney from the one he had left in his wake in South Carolina.

Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, shed his reluctance to attack Gingrich, the former House speaker, unleashing hard-hitting ads on television, sharpening his performance in a pair of debates and deploying surrogates to the edges of Gingrich’s own campaign appearances, all in hopes of unnerving him.

Restore our Future, an outside group supporting Romney, accounted for about $8.8 million in the ad wars, and the candidate and the “super PAC” combined outspent Gingrich and Winning The Future, the organization backing him, by about $15.5 million to $3.3 million, an advantage of nearly 5-1.

Gingrich responded by assailing Romney as a man incapable of telling the truth and vowed to remain in the race until the Republican National Convention next summer. He won the endorsement of campaign dropout Herman Cain and increasingly sought the support of evangelicals and tea party advocates, a former House speaker running as the anti-establishment insurgent of the party he once helped lead.

Bombarded by harsh television advertising, some Floridians said they had soured on both candidates.

“The dirty ads really turned me off on Mitt Romney,” said Dorothy Anderson, of Pinellas Park, adding she was voting for Gingrich. She said of Romney, “In fact if he gets the nomination, I probably won’t vote for him.”

At the same polling place, Romney supporter Curtis Dempsey expressed similar feelings but about Gingrich. “The only thing Newt Gingrich has to offer is a big mouth,” he said.

Voters frequently say they are offended or appalled by negative ads. But polls show consistently that the commercials are able to sway the opinions of large numbers of voters, and they are a staple of nearly all campaigns.

Santorum had no money for television ads to back up his strong debate performances. He left the state at one point, saying he was going home to Pennsylvania to prepare his income tax returns. But he stayed longer than anticipated, because of the hospitalization of his 3-year-old daughter with pneumonia. The girl has a rare genetic disorder, Trisomy 18.

Santorum and Paul both also campaigned in Colorado on Tuesday as Florida Republicans were voting. The state has caucuses on Feb 7, the same day as Minnesota.

Even before that come caucuses in Nevada, a state that Romney won when he sought the nomination in 2008 and is favored to capture again.

By contrast, both Romney and Gingrich campaigned across Florida on primary day as the polls opened.

Exuding confidence, the former Massachusetts governor said – even though the figures said otherwise – that he had been outspent in South Carolina.

“I needed to make sure that instead of being outgunned in terms of attacks, that I responded aggressively, and hopefully that will have served me well here,” he told reporters.

Gingrich, combative as usual, said the race for the nomination won’t be decided until summer, “unless Romney drops out.”

Comments (11) Add comment
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bjphysics
36
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bjphysics 02/01/12 - 12:02 am
0
0
Behold the power of magic

Behold the power of magic underwear and negative ad carpet bombing.

wtinney
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wtinney 02/01/12 - 12:05 am
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Good for Florida. Although

Good for Florida. Although exit polling showed a +10% advantage to Newt with with evangelicals, the top concern for voters was the economy and that is what really took this to the finish for Newt. Romney's campaign may have slipped up by saying SC voted against him because they were racists. He should keep those comments to himself because he will be dependent on SC votes in the future. I still see a long, hard road for Romney as midwestern and southern contests will be decided by a significantly larger evangelical population. We'll see if he can maintain the momentum.

Riverman1
90291
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Riverman1 02/01/12 - 01:07 am
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Wtinney, what did you see

Wtinney, what did you see that makes you think Romney's campaign said SC voted against him because they were racists? That seems out of character for Romney and is hard to believe. SC will most certainly vote for him against Obama.

seenitB4
93490
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seenitB4 02/01/12 - 04:24 am
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Even though I feel Romney is

Even though I feel Romney is the best candidate on the Rep. side ...I still feel uneasy.........something "sticky" type feeling....:(

Techfan
6461
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Techfan 02/01/12 - 05:34 am
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Amazing what a 5:1 spending

Amazing what a 5:1 spending advantage will do.

southernguy08
532
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southernguy08 02/01/12 - 07:08 am
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TECH, what was it that John
Unpublished

TECH, what was it that John Kerry spent in 04...$250 million? Yeah, real "working man" there.

charlesaiken
16
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charlesaiken 02/01/12 - 08:17 am
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Anything is better than what

Anything is better than what we have now!!

allhans
24489
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allhans 02/01/12 - 08:56 am
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I think the poster was

I think the poster was confused. The race charge was made against Gingrich, not Romney.

wtinney
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wtinney 02/01/12 - 09:04 am
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"Why did Newt Gingrich win

"Why did Newt Gingrich win South Carolina? According to Romneyworld, it's largely because Republican voters there are a bunch of racists who can't tell the difference between Juan Williams and President Obama:
Romney advisers say the 22-point switch in polls in the state took place after Gingrich's extended tussle with Juan Williams over racial sensitivity. "Williams was a stand-in for Barack Obama in people's minds," said one Romney adviser.

Undoubtedly, Gingrich's defense of his "food-stamp" dog-whistle gave him a big boost in South Carolina, but it wasn't the only thing that figured into his victory. Gingrich's thundering response to John King's question about his ex-wife was also enormously important as was the fact that unlike Florida, Romney was unable to drown Gingrich out in ad spending.

Moreover, leading up to the final week in South Carolina, Gingrich made Romney's Bain record a major issue, something that he has since dropped. Another crucial factor: in South Carolina, Romney didn't go nearly as negative as he has in Florida until late in the game. He tried to run on his own merits—and ended up getting beaten badly.

In Florida, Romney has learned from his South Carolina mistakes and as a result, he is likely to win by a wide margin. Assuming that's what happens, Romney will leave Florida convinced of his invincibility, but the only thing he'll have really proven is that when you can outspend Newt Gingrich by a five-to-one ratio, it's not that hard to beat him in a negative campaign. And looking towards November, Romney's problem is that President Obama is not Newt Gingrich"

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/01/31/1060253/-Mitt-Romney-campaign:-...

It is not actually Romney but it was a snippet from Romney's campaign. Still, comments like that should never be made and even such a rhetorical discussion had about something like that. Romney (including Romney's campaign) will need these votes in the future. Should not even joke about this kind of stuff - even if found in the DailyKos. And yes, I believe SC will, by majority, vote for any opponent to Obama, period. But there is a difference in the numbers when you have excitement and energy in your campaign to get people to come out and vote versus a "no vote" opponent that does not really resonate and therefore falls flat (i.e. McCain 2008). No sense rocking the boat - either by mouth or by those allowed to speak for you.

TK3
562
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TK3 02/01/12 - 09:30 am
0
0
Same old, same old

Same old, same old establishment candidates are not going to cut it again. I wouldn't buy a used car from Romney nor trust Mr.Getrich near my wife or her checkbook and I pray Santorum stays home and spend time with his ill child and take a hard look at many Muslim nations and study up on the reasons for separation of church and state.

Dr.Paul is the only candidate who I would trust with my wallet, wife, liberty and to end the (by any other name) bloody oil war invasions.

Riverman1
90291
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Riverman1 02/01/12 - 09:59 am
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Wtinney, thanks for the link

Wtinney, thanks for the link and more info. Personally, I believe liberals like the Daily Kos go out of their way to find something to make trouble for Republicans. They don't name the Romney advisors who said SC is racist, etc. The Romney campaign is not about to make such stupid statements, in my opinion.

As far as the percentage he wins SC by in the general election, it really doesn't matter. Winner takes all the electoral votes.

allhans
24489
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allhans 02/01/12 - 02:33 pm
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Do you remember? Gingrich

Do you remember? Gingrich stated that he would like to attend the NAACP meeting and tell them where they were going wrong. Such audacity is not what we usually want in a political candidate. I'm not saying he was right or wrong, only that there are times you might want to keep your thoughts private.
Even his advisers admit they never know which side of Gingrich will appear around the next bend.

allhans
24489
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allhans 02/01/12 - 02:36 pm
0
0
Techfan, Spending advantage.

Techfan, Spending advantage. I hope you repeat this later in the race when Obama (excuse me, his political action groups) hits the air with their millions of dollars in ads against his opponent.

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