Romney Wins Florida GOP Primary; Area Republican Reacts
Mitt Romney earns a convincing victory over Newt Gingrich and other Republican nominees in Florida's Presidential Preference Primary.
Mitt Romney won the Florida Presidential Preference Primary on Tuesday, earning the state's 50 delegates and distancing himself from Newt Gingrich as the Republican frontrunner for 2012.
The Associated Press projected Romney's commanding victory shortly after 8 p.m. when the final polls closed in Florida's Panhandle.
The former Massachusetts governor had taken 46 percent of the vote to 31 percent for Gingrich after returns from 99 percent of the polls were in. Rick Santorum had 13 percent, and Ron Paul 7 percent.
"Florida, you're the best," a victorious Romney told a crowd gathered at his primary night celebration at the downtown Tampa Convention Center.
Attorney and Brandon High graduate Clif Curry, a former president of the Greater Brandon Chamber of Commerce and a recipient of the group’s Key Citizen Award, said he was asked to be one of the local co-chairs for Romney’s campaign in Hillsborough County just a few weeks ago.
“I had not endorsed any candidate until then because I wanted to watch and see how things played out,” Curry said. “It became very apparent to me that the candidate who had the ability to beat the president is Mr. Romney and that’s why I decided to support him and agreed to be one of his co-chairmen.”
How Hillsborough Voted
Unofficial results from the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections showed Romney took 47.6 percent of the vote, topping Gingrich's 28.2 percent.
Romney garnered more than 42,300 of the nearly 90,000 votes cast by Hillsborough County Republicans.
The Importance of Florida
The "Interstate 4 corridor" and the Tampa Bay area in particular had been prime territory for some of the candidates' campaigns in the days and weeks leading up to Tuesday's vote.
Gingrich attended grassroots rallies in Brandon, St. Petersburg and in Tampa, where he brought supporter and former GOP candidate Herman Cain along.
The win in Florida would have been even bigger for Romney, but the state was penalized by the Republican National Committee for moving up its primary date, getting stripped of half of its 99 delegates.
Florida is expected to again be a battleground state in the 2012 general election. In 2008, Barack Obama took 50 percent of the vote, narrowly edging Republican Sen. John McCain's 48 percent.
Romney has taken 84 delegates — but needs a total of 1,144 to win the Republican nomination.
Now the campaign trail shifts to Nevada and Maine for their caucuses on Feb. 4.