Mitt Romney strolls to victory in Florida

Mitt Romney strolls to victory in Florida

TAMPA, Florida
Mitt Romney strolls to victory in Florida

Supporters of US Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney cheer as he clinched 46 percent of votes in Florida.

Mitt Romney won the pivotal Republican primary in Florida, thrashing Newt Gingrich and taking a big step toward becoming his party’s challenger to President Barack Obama.

With his win in Jan. 31’s primary, Romney has recovered the political momentum he had lost after Gingrich’s victory in the Jan. 21 South Carolina primary. Florida was by far the largest of the first four nominating contests. Gingrich, 68, shocked the party establishment when he thumped Romney, 64, in South Carolina earlier this month, but his support sank fast in the larger and more diverse state of Florida, and Romney now has all the momentum.

Gingrich, the former speaker of the House of Representatives, vowed to fight on. He has twice before bounced back after his campaign appeared dead. But recovering from the loss could be especially difficult. Romney has a huge advantage in money and organization as he plows into a series of February contests.

Romney won almost half the votes in a four-person race in Florida. That damages Gingrich’s oft-stated contention that the voters who oppose Romney outnumber those who favor him. Returns from 100 percent of Florida’s precincts showed Romney with 46 percent of the vote to 32 percent for Gingrich. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum had 13 percent, and Texas congressman Ron Paul 7 percent. Neither mounted a substantial effort in the state and both were campaigning Jan. 31 in western states with upcoming caucuses. 

Gingrich vows to fight

The winner-take-all primary was worth 50 delegates to the Republican National Convention in late August in Tampa, Florida. 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. Gingrich stressed that most states have yet to vote, as he addressed supporters with a sign on his podium reading “46 States to go.” 

“We are going to contest everyplace,” he said. The candidates were converging Feb. 1 on Nevada which holds its caucuses on Saturday. Romney won Nevada’s caucuses in 2008, and a substantial Mormon population there could propel him to victory. The candidates will next debate in Arizona on Feb. 22.

USA, elections, 2012,