Early came the results and quickly followed the collective support for a candidate not everyone in the Greater Brandon Republican Club had endorsed.
But now, with Gov. Mitt Romney the chosen son of a Florida Republican electorate, some of the club members, meeting for a Presidential Preference Primary watch party at in Brandon, are ready to switch their allegiances — if necessary.
“I voted for Newt Gingrich but I can support Mitt Romney,” said Tony Jackson, sergeant at arms for the Republican club, speaking for many in the event room at O’Brien’s.
Even better, he said, would be a Romney-Gingrich ticket.
“I think both men would capture all of the points, all of the three legs of the stool, of the Republican Party,” Jackson said.
Plant City Mayor Dan Raulerson, who this year is running for the House of Representatives seat Rich Glorioso is vacating because of term limits, said he wants to see the battle continue between Romney and Gingrich before a nominee is determined.
“I wanted Newt to win Florida so they can continue the battle, so that at the end, whoever wins, will be better prepared for the debates with Obama in the general election,” Raulerson said. “It’s a little ugly right now, but in the end it tastes good.”
It's a sentiment that Romney himself expressed, as evidenced by the words that flashed across the screen as Raulerson made his comments, in which Romney, in Tampa, was quoted as saying the "competitive primary doesn't divide us, it prepares us."
Emma J. Runion attended the watch party wearing a Newt Gingrich button.
"No, I'm not discouraged," she said. "The fat lady, she's not singing yet."
Jeff Lukens, a “Local Voices” blogger for Patch, said his vote, too, was not a part of Florida’s landslide win for Romney.
“I’ll be honest, my vote was for Newt, but you know what? I like Romney, too,” Lukens said. “I like them all. If Romney’s our man we’re going to go all the way with him.”
Running his own election this year, Steve Cona, a candidate for the at-large District 6 seat held by Hillsborough County Commisioner Kevin Beckner, said it's a pretty sure bet Romney will lead the GOP presidential ticket.
"As Florida goes, I think the rest of the country is going to follow," Cona said. "I think it comes down to organization and money and that's what Mitt Romney has over the rest."
All will be determined in Tampa, at the 2012 Republican National Convention in August, and that has hometown Republicans grinning from ear to ear.
Having the convention on home turf has “really energized a lot of people,” said Melissa Jackson, president of the Greater Brandon Republican Club. “The rest of the country, the rest of the world, is looking at our backyard, and that gives you new eyes for your own backyard and its people.”
Jackson said she organized the Jan. 31 watch party because she wanted “something that didn’t focus only on the candidate of your choice.”
“I wanted something that focused on the party, and on your right to decide your candidate,” she added. “I can honestly say as club president I don’t know who the members of my club voted for. Going into the primary we had people voting for [Rick] Santorum, for Romney, for Gingrich, for Ron Paul, and we even had Perry supporters.”
She did say, however, that the group at O’Brien’s might be more heavily leaned toward Gingrich, simply because Romney that night was the featured guest at a watch party in neighboring Tampa.
And now, with the primary decided, “we need to get focused and we need to get busy,” she said. “The Democrats are very organized, because their candidate is already chosen.”