The Florida Republican Presidential Primary: Mitt Romney wins big.

As was expected:

Mitt Romney to win Florida primary, CBS News projects

ByBrian Montopoli
Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney waves during his victory celebration after winning the Florida primary election Tuesday Jan. 31, 2012, in Tampa, Fla. Updated: 8:48 p.m. ET

Mitt Romney will defeat Newt Gingrich decisively in the Florida Republican primary, CBS News is projecting, in a victory that reestablishes the former Massachusetts governor as the clear frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination.

“I stand ready to lead this party and to lead our nation,” Romney told cheering supporters in Tampa after his victory became clear.

With more than 5,000 of 6,796 precincts reporting, Romney had 47 percent of the vote, followed by 32 percent for Gingrich, 13 percent for Rick Santorum and 7 percent for Ron Paul.

More at the link.

If Governor Romney winds up winning the 47% he is projected to capture, that will mean he has done better than the pre-election polls projected; most of the polls had him winning around 42% of the vote. This could be part of the reason why; from Ed Morrissey:

Gallup: Romney edges Obama in swing states

posted at 10:25 am on January 30, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

Mitt Romney edges Barack Obama among registered voters in swing states, according to a new Gallup/USA Today pollBy “edge,” I mean barely edges — by a single point.  Even with that, though, in the same polling:

Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney essentially ties Barack Obama in the nation’s key battlegrounds, a USA TODAY/Gallup Swing States survey finds, while rival Newt Gingrich now trails the president by a decisive 14 percentage points.

That reflects a significant decline by the former House speaker since early December, when he led Obama by three points. …

In a head-to-head race, Romney leads Obama by a statistically insignificant percentage point, 48%-47%, the survey finds.

But Obama leads Gingrich, 54%-40%. The president’s standing against him has risen nine points since early December; Gingrich has fallen by eight.

Gingrich fares less well than Texas Rep. Ron Paul, who trails Obama by seven points, 50%-43%, and former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum, who also trails by seven points, 51%-44%.

As I’ve written before, this is a bit of an apples-to-oranges comparison.  While the GOP continues its primary slugfest, it’s natural to have some voters refuse to back primary candidates against Obama as a form of principle protest, at least for the moment.  Democrats are united behind Barack Obama and have no such reservations.

The key to this poll is the fact that Obama as incumbent falls below 50%, especially in a poll of registered rather than likely voters, regardless of which head-to-head matchup it appears.  That’s a soft re-elect number — not fatal to re-election at that level, but a problem that could grow after the Republicans actually pick their nominee.  Since likely voter samples tend to produce less favorable results for Democrats, that problem is probably worse than it seems at the moment.

Gingrich still has a problem, though.  Even though he has regained his top-tier status in the Republican primary, he seems to have alienated a lot of voters to have a 17-point swing in the gap over just six or seven weeks.  Given the tone of the campaign and especially Gingrich’s angry attacks over the past week, that may not be a big surprise.  What might play well with the Tea Party base won’t play well in a general election, and the polling results of the last few days indicates that it doesn’t play well with the Tea Party base, either.

More at the link.

It could be a bit simpler than Mr Gingrich’s style turning off some voters; after all, Mr Romney’s campaign in Florida hasn’t exactly been all sweetness and light. It could be that there was a significant number of Republican voters in Florida who were looking at the candidates and finally asked themselves: which one of these men can beat Barack Obama?

That has been a major theme of the Romney campaign all along, that he is the candidate who can defeat the President in November. Naturally, all of the candidates claim that they can, but the conventional wisdom is that Mr Romney has the best chance of that. The conventional wisdom has been wrong before, but something doesn’t get to be the conventional wisdom unless a lot of people accept it as true.

As it happens, one of my sisters lives in Orlando, and she’s been asking me for whom I thought she should vote. She told me that she’d be voting early in the day, but I don’t know for whom she voted.

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