|Florida Republican primary, 2012|
Mitt Romney easily took the Florida primary Tuesday night followed by Newt Gingrich in second, Rick Santorum in third and Ron Paul rounding out the remaining four.
Report from the Washington Post:
TAMPA — Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney claimed a decisive victory in the Florida primary Tuesday, as a conservative electorate chose Romney over former House Speaker Newt Gingrich as the best positioned to take on President Obama in November.
Just 10 days after Gingrich handed Romney a drubbing in the South Carolina primary that had threatened to derail Romney’s campaign, Romney returned the favor in Florida, capturing the biggest prize yet in the Republican nominating contest.
Early results showed Romney holding dominating leads across much of the state. He appeared to swamp Gingrich, despite that exit poll data showed the electorate was dominated by conservative voters who support the Tea Party. Gingrich had pressed the same argument in Florida that had won him South Carolina: That Romney was not a true conservative.
But the key to Romney’s victory may be found in exit poll surveys that showed voters’ top priority was finding a candidate that could beat President Obama. Buoyed by millions in largely negative television advertising, Romney appears to have persuaded Florida voters he was more reliable bet to challenge Obama in November.
Clearly Gingrich's push in Florida struck the wrong chord with voters since polls a few weeks ago showed him edging a lead. In the remaining 7 days that lead seemed to slip. The results from Tuesday night indicate that Gingrich apparently wasn't able to seal the deal leaving enough voters switching back to Romney. Rick Santorum and Ron Paul finished as expected since both campaigns essentially pulled out of Florida setting their sights on upcoming caucus states.