Romney Wins Florida Primary

Presidential candidate Mitt Romney won the Florida primary Tuesday.

With 64 percent of precincts reporting, Romney has 47 percent of the vote, followed by 31 percent for Newt Gingrich, 13 percent for Rick Santorum and seven percent for Ron Paul. Romney's portion of the total will likely go down after the precincts in the less Romney-friendly Florida panhandle are counted, but those votes will not prevent a Romney victory.

Florida apportions its delegate in a winner-take-all system, so Romney will receive all 50 of Florida's delegates. (Florida technically has 99 delegates, but, under Republican Party rules, suffers a 50 percent penalty for scheduling its primary too early.)

The victory is a turnaround for Romney after a disappointing loss to Gingrich in the Jan. 21 South Carolina primary. Romney's victory is likely due to two strong debate performances, spending on negative advertising about Gingrich, and an electorate that was more favorable toward Romney to begin with.

Early exit polls show Gingrich doing slightly better than Romney among evangelicals (40 percent to 36 percent).

Romney did dramatically better than Gingrich among Latinos, the largest ethnic group in Florida, even though Gingrich won the endorsement of the Hispanic Leadership Network, a Latino Republican organization co-founded by former Florida Governor Jeb Bush. Also, Gingrich's views on immigration are considered more in line with those of Latinos.

Romney lost the Florida primary in 2008 to John McCain largely because he lost the Latino vote, but this time Romney received about 56 percent of the Latino vote, according to early Fox News exit poll results.

Romney also did well among another important Florida voting bloc – seniors. He received about half of their votes to Gingrich's 35 percent.

The economy is an important issue in Florida, which has been one of the states most affected by the housing crisis. Sixty-two percent of voters said the economy was the most important issue and among them, Romney received 51 percent of the vote, according to early CNN exit polls.

Some have questioned whether the negativity of the Republican contest will hurt the eventual nominee's chances in the general election against President Barack Obama. Romney addressed that issue in his victory speech.

"As this primary unfolds, our opponents in the other party have been watching and they like to comfort themselves with the thought that a competitive campaign will leave us divided and weak. But, I've got news for them. A competitive primary does not divide us, it prepares us," Romney said.