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LIVE BLOG: Florida Primary Results

Tracy Bloom, Paige Brettingen |
January 31, 2012 | 1:59 p.m. PST

Senior Editors

It's primary day in Florida, and voters are heading to the polls to cast their ballots for their preferred Republican presidential candidate. The latest polls have shown Mitt Romney with a substantial lead over Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul, and he led Gingrich by 60,000 votes before the polls opened this morning, thanks to early voting in the Sunshine State. The polls will close at 7 p.m. local time, but results aren't expected to be announced until after 8 p.m. when polls close in the Florida Panhandle.

Here are the latest developments:

5:00 p.m. PT: CNN is projecting that Mitt Romney has won the Florida GOP primary.

4:49 p.m. PT: With results coming in, Romney is opening up a wide lead over Romney, beating Gingrich 48% to 31%. Rick Santorum is running third at 13% while Ron Paul is last with 7%.

4:02 p.m. PT: While Republicans compete in the Florida primary, President Obama will be busy fundraising for his re-election campaign. According to the White House pool, Obama is currently at St. Regis Hotel for a $35,800 per ticket fundraiser.

4:00 p.m. PT: The polls have just closed in the Eastern Time Zone of the Florida Republican primary. The polls in the Florida Panhandle, which is located in the Central Time Zone, will be open for another hour.

3:55 p.m. PT: Democratic National Chairman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, a congresswoman from Florida, weighed in on the Republican primary in her state, saying that money sure bought Romney a lot of negative ads. “Even when he claims victory tonight, he can’t claim victory because he earned it [on substance],” she told Talking Points Memo. “He bought it by drowning his opposition in negative TV ads. That’s reflective in that he’s plummeting in national polling with moderates and independents.”

3:33 p.m. PT: More exit poll results: just a quarter of GOP primary voters in Florida decided in the past few days, a much smaller figure than the majority of voters in South Carolina and the near majority of voters in Iowa and New Hampshire who decided right before those contests.

3:27 p.m. PT: Here's an interesting debate: Mitt Romney vs....himself. Buzzfeed put together a compilation of Romney that essentially shows him debating himself. Watch:

3:21 p.m. PT: Meghan McCain, daughter of former Republican presidential nominee John McCain, is calling for Newt Gingrich to drop out of the Republican presidential race after Florida. Gingrich has said he's in the primary for the long-haul. McCain wrote on The Daily Beast: "There is something particularly desperate about Gingrich vowing to stay in the race until the convention. When he's up in the polls, he claims the voters are exercising their democratic rights. When he's down, he says voters are having the “party establishment” forced down their throats. You see, Republicans, it’s Gingrich’s world, and apparently we all have to be subjected to it. Gingrich is an avid lover and student of history, yet with all of his knowledge—and despite what you think about him, Gingrich is a very smart man—he still doesn’t want to see the writing on the wall and concede defeat after Florida."

3:15: p.m. PT: CBS News has put out some of the results from its exit polls. According to the poll, nearly two-thirds of Florida voters said the debates mattered. According to CBS News: "That's a positive sign for Mitt Romney, who was widely seen as besting rival Newt Gingrich in the two Sunshine State debates over the past week." More results: electibility was considered the most important issue, voters believed Romney ran the "most unfair" campaign, and 39% of voters said campaign ads played an important factor in their decision on who to vote for. 

3:12 p.m. PT: Less than 1 hour before the polls close in Florida's Eastern time zone... a check-in with Twitter:

[View the story "Gingrich's Turn To Sing and Romney's Kosher Food" on Storify]

3:04 p.m. PT: It's looking more and more like Rick Santorum won't drop out after Florida, despite an expected poor showing. The former Pennsylvania Senator has already released a new ad in Nevada. Curiously, the minute-long ad only attacks Gingrich. Take a look:

2:59 p.m. PT: Republicans love to slam President Obama for his use of a teleprompter, even as they use them as well. Want proof? Here's a picture of Mitt Romney's teleprompter going up in Florida.

2:55 p.m. PT: The presidential primary is nothing like American Idol, but that doesn't mean the candidates don't like their exercise their vocal chops on the campaign trail. Here's Mitt Romney's singing "America the Beautiful" at a recent Florida appearance:

2:48 p.m. PT: A Ron Paul supporter has claimed he was stomped on by Newt Gingrich's security. 29-year-old Eddie Dillard was attending a Gingrich campaign when the alleged incidident took place. According to The Huffington Post:

Gingrich's security team members asked Dillard to leave after they noticed the Ron Paul sign's proximity to Gingrich and his wife, Callista. When Dillard refused, a security team member dug the heel of his shoe into Dillard's bare foot like he was putting out a cigarette.

Dillard said he was shocked and snapped a picture of the man with his phone, which was then knocked out of Dillard's hand.

"Just block him!" a Gingrich campaign aide said. "Everyone step on his toes!"

Ron Paul's campaign tweeted a picture of Dillard's bruised foot following the incident.

2:43 p.m. PT: Exit polls show Florida voters are less religious than those in earlier primary states. According to The New York Times: "The preliminary exit poll results released this evening show that just under half of Republican primary voters consider themselves born again or evangelical Christians." According to CNN, just 39% Florida voters are White Evangelical/Born-Again voters.  In South Carolina, nearly two-thirds of voters were evangelicals, while in Iowa that figure was around 60%.

2:37 p.m. PT: We know more about the people who cast their ballots today. According to CNN, slightly more men than women are voting (52% to 48%). As far as politcal beliefs: a slim majority of voters (37%) consider themselves somewhat conservative, while 34% considered themselves very conservatives and 30% considered themselves to be moderate.

2:36 p.m. PT: Is the Republican presidential primary the ugliest in modern history? Howard Fineman weighs in:

The polls aren't closed but the results are in:

Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney have managed this month to stage the most juvenile, petty, personal and unenlightening presidential contest in modern history, a race akin to (and about as serious as) the back-alley throw down in "Anchorman."

2:32 p.m. PT: As super PAC's increasingly gain more and more attention, The New York Times has provided an in-depth look at who's funding them and how much they donated in the last three months of 2011. More will be known tonight, as the FEC midnight deadline approaches.

2:23 p.m. PT: Some Video Recaps of the candidates in Florida... and what Twitter is saying about the primary:

[View the story "The Final Push In Florida" on Storify]

2:10 p.m. PT: Without offering an endorsement or predicting a winner, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) said today that whoever wins the Florida primary will likely be the Republican nominee. Gingrich responded, telling reporters the race wouldn't be decided until June or July "unless Romney drops out earlier."

2:00 p.m. PT: The primary might be in Florida, but both Ron Paul and Rick Santorum will be holding their Florida primary night parties in different states. Both Paul and Santorum will be in Nevada, where the next nominating contest is scheduled to take place this Saturday.


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