Mitt Romney handily won the Florida Republican presidential primary, with 47 percent of the vote, when the polls closed Tuesday night. Newt Gingrich came in second with 31 percent, followed by Rick Santorum with 13 percent and Texas Rep. Ron Paul with 7 percent.
Neither Paul nor Santorum spent much time or resources in Florida, which has a winner-take-all delegate system. As a result, the headlines were largely dominated by Gingrich and Romney, who engaged in a nasty battle that at times seemed childish and petty. The former Massachusetts governor employed the same tactics in Florida that he’d used in the Hawkeye state, scorching Gingrich every chance he got on the campaign trail and in millions of dollars of television advertising funded by the Romney campaign and super PACs supporting him. He also outperformed Gingrich during the last week’s two debates. It paid off.
In his victory speech, Romney said that the primary process and intra-party fighting aren’t weakening the GOP as some have worried, but instead is preparing them for the fight ahead with President Obama.
"A competitive primary does not divide us; it prepares us," Romney said. "And when we gather here in Tampa seven months from now for our convention, ours will be a united party with a winning ticket for America!"
According to MSNBC, in the end what convinced Florida voters to choose Romney was his ability to beat Obama, which 45 percent said was the reason they supported him. But he still faces the challenge of swaying the so-called true conservatives that exit polls showed were trending for Gingrich, Fox News reports.
Romney directed most of his remarks at Obama in an effort to contrast their different views of America and approaches to solving its problems.
"Leadership is about taking responsibility, not making excuses. In another era of American crisis, Thomas Paine is reported to have said, 'Lead, follow, or get out of the way.' Mr. President, you were elected to lead, you chose to follow, and now it’s time for you to get out of the way!" Romney said.
Gingrich, for now, seems determined to stay in the race for as long as he can. And as he proved with his victory in South Carolina, he’s never better than when he’s down.
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