Romney Wins Florida And Retakes GOP Reins
Former Massachusetts Gov. and presidential candidate Mitt Romney regained control of the volatile Republican primary race Tuesday, winning the state of Florida and righting the ship carrying his recently wavering candidacy for the 2012 GOP nomination.
“I’m hoping that as I go to Nevada and Minnesota and Missouri and Colorado and Arizona, and the list goes on and on, that I’ll be able to get a lot of support in part because of the response here of people in Florida,” Romney told the Washington Post.
The Florida primary is the biggest prize in the GOP contest to date, with 50 at-large delegates and more than $20 million spent by the GOP hopefuls on TV advertising alone. Consistently lauding Florida as a "microcosm of the entire nation," Romney told the Washington Post that his outcome in the "Sunshine State" would be a good indication of his electability.
Romney raised about $56 million in 2011, according to figures released Tuesday by his campaign. He's left with about $20 million in cash, a total far exceeding his rivals.
Despite Romney's convincing win, the script for Tuesday's primary had plenty of room for an upset.
Romney suffered a crushing defeat in South Carolina at the hands of Gingrich on January 21. And even with a convincing win in New Hampshire earlier this month, pundits agreed that Romney needed to take Florida to regain his standing as the GOP frontrunner.
Cognizant of the importance of Florida, Gingrich had been on the offensive since South Carolina, exchanging blows with the Romney camp despite a nearly 4 to 1 spending margin in Florida, according to CNN.
"He has been flailing around a bit trying to go after me for one thing or the other," Romney told supporters in Dunedin, outside St. Petersburg, Florida. "You just watch it and shake your head. It has been kind of painfully revealing to watch."
But Romney was quick to fire back, slamming Gingrich for his lucrative Freddie Mac consulting contract and the ethics violations the former Speaker faced during his tenure. He recently released an ad showing archival footage of NBC's Tom Brokaw breaking the news that Gingrich's peers found him "guilty of ethics violations" in 1997.
Gingrich dismissed the ad as "totally phony." He told ABC that “whoever gets to be the Republican nominee is going to be attacked by Obama’s billion-dollar attack campaign… The question is, can you withstand that attack better as a solid conservative or as a moderate?”
The campaign now moves to the caucuses of Maine and Nevada on February 4, which hold 24 and 28 delegates, respectively.
But the major prize of this GOP primary is, without a doubt, Super Tuesday, where 11 states and 466 delegates are at stake. A good showing on March 6 can make or break one's candidacy, as Super Tuesday makes up a large part of the 1,144 needed to win the GOP nomination for 2012.
Even if every candidate won every delegate, the GOP nomination could not be secured until mid-March.
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