Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney cruised to victory in Florida’s primary election on Tuesday, beating his foremost rival for the nomination, Newt Gingrich, by an almost 15 percentage point margin according to early election results.
Romney, who is considered the frontunner, needed a win in the Sunshine State to rebound after Gingrich came out the winner in South Carolina’s conservative primary more than a week ago.
The former House speaker was up in preelection polls in Florida last week and still leads in the nationwide surveys but a number of grueling television advertisements run by the Romney campaign after a disappointing performance by their opponent in the last debate before the primary may have doomed his chances of staging another insurgent win the South.
Unlike was the case in the earlier primary contest, all of Florida’s fifty delegates to the nominating convention in August are awarded to the statewide winner. There, they will be bound to the candidate for three rounds of voting.
Gingrich has vowed to stay in the race whatever his performance in the upcoming votes, raising the possibility of a brokered convention in which none of the contenders has amassed a majority of delegates necessary to claim the nomination before August.
There will be caucuses in Nevada, Maine, Colorado and Minnesota next week. The Missouri primary is set for February 7 while Arizona and Michigan vote February 28. With the exception of Arizona, these states are all considered less conservative and favorable to Romney.
Gingrich would have a chance to rebound on March 6, Super Tuesday, when ten states vote at once. Among them, Gingrich’s home state of Georgia as well as Oklahoma and Tennessee, states in the Upper South that are solidly Republican and home to millions of evangelical Christians.
Texas congressman Ron Paul hopes to do well in Nevada and Colorado where right-wing voters are more libertarian. He, too, could remain competitive in states that award their delegates on a proportional basis although his support rarely exceeds 20 percent.