Romney thumps Gingrich, regains momentum

February 1st, 2012 - 12:54 pm ICT by IANS  

Barack Obama Washington, Feb 1 (IANS) With a thumping win in the Republican primary in Florida, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney has cemented his front-running status for the right to challenge President Barack Obama in November.

To cheers of “Mitt, Mitt, Mitt,” Romney thanked his supporters for what he called a “great victory” just 30 minutes after the last polls closed in the Sunshine State and networks projected him the winner with 46 percent votes to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s 32 percent.

The victory came after a campaign of vicious personal attacks between Romney and his closest competitor, Gingrich, who had posted a stunning double-digit victory over Romney and the rest of the field in the South Carolina primary.

“A competitive primary does not divide us, it prepares us, and we will win,” Romney said to cheers. He urged Republicans to focus on defeating Obama, declaring, “I stand ready to lead this party and to lead this nation.”

The victory gave Romney all 50 of Florida’s convention delegates, and more importantly, new momentum heading into a series of caucuses and primaries in the next month building up to Super Tuesday on March 6, when 10 states will hold nominating contests.

“I think the winner of Florida is in all likelihood going to be the nominee of our party,” Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio told CNN Tuesday. “Florida is a mini America.”

In the final Florida poll of likely GOP primary voters, released Tuesday by the American Research Group, Romney had a 12-point lead over Gingrich, with the other two candidates Rick Santorum and Ron Paul far behind.

Gingrich’s momentum quickly faded after Romney’s campaign went on the offensive. Romney turned in two strong debate performances in Florida and unleashed a barrage of ads targeting Gingrich.

While Romney and Gingrich were in Florida on Tuesday night to watch election returns, Santorum and Paul, knowing they’re out of the running for the 50 delegates, have moved on to the next contests in Colorado, Nevada and Maine.

Romney’s convincing win in Florida, coupled with an unfriendly calendar for Gingrich in February with friendlier Super Tuesday states more than a month away, could put Gingrich in a bind, CNN said.

But even after Florida’s 50 convention delegates are claimed in the winner-take-all primary, neither candidate will have more than 10 percent of the 1,144 delegates needed to win the nomination at the August convention.

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at arun.kumar@ians.in)

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