Mitt Romney wins Fla. primary
Published: Wednesday, February 1, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, February 1, 2012 02:02
The nine votes cast for Ron Paul in the Marshall Student Center (MSC) polling stations were enough to declare him the winner of precincts 352 and 353.
Yet the state primary offered very different results, with Mitt Romney declared the blowout winner.
Romney, who lost the South Carolina primary to Newt Gingrich, made his second sweep following the New Hampshire primary with 46 percent of the vote.
Gingrich came second in Florida with 32 percent of the vote. Santorum came in third with 13 percent and Paul finished in last place in the overall Florida primary with 7 percent.
At the MSC polling site, only 19 of the 242 registered Republicans eligible to vote in the closed primary in the district trickled through the doors of the third-floor room to cast their ballots. Following Paul's nine-vote victory in the two precincts, Mitt Romney collected five votes, Newt Gingrich received three votes and Rick Santorum received two votes.
The votes at the MSC polling site were hand counted before being fed into a machine, which sent the data to the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections.
USF's underwhelming turnout was not too distant from the county's, said Travis Abercrombie, spokesman for the supervisor of elections. Voter turnout was "certainly not high" and was between "low to moderate," he said.
With 301 of the 383 Hillsborough County precincts reporting, Abercrombie said Hillsborough County favored Romney over Gingrich by a 19.8 percent margin.
Florida marked a clear victory for Romney, who has struggled to gain the initial momentum he thought was his after the initial results of the Iowa caucus, which was later declared Santorum's win.
Romney received 50 delegates after Florida gave up half of its delegates in order to move the primary date up to Jan. 31.
USF political science professor J. Edwin Benton said despite losing delegates for the early primary, Florida may have gotten a bigger say in who the ultimate GOP nominee will be.
"(The people of Florida) want to have their voice and their opinion registered early in the campaign because they know it has a major impact on who stays in and who has to drop out of the race," he said.
The early winners, he said, receive more funding from donors.
"Gingrich may not drop out, but what's probably going to happen is lots of people are going to say, ‘I'm not sure if he's going to make it to the end,'" Benton said. "Those people who yesterday thought he was a viable candidate aren't likely to continue to contribute tomorrow."
Benton said he estimated Romney outspent Gingrich in campaigning by four to five times — a practice that he said put Bachmann, Huntsman and Perry out of the race.
Though they fared poorly in Florida, Benton said Paul and Santorum may not necessarily put up white flags now.
"Paul is seen as the main voice for libertarian ideas," he said. "He knows he's not going to win, if he's really honest with himself. But he's out there singing in the wind to give voice to a point of view for whoever listens."
Santorum, he said, has time to run in elections even 12 years in the future.
"I think he deep down has known for a long time that he won't win the nomination, but his hope was that people would get so tired of Gingrich and Romney beating up one another that he'll come out virtually unscathed and people will say ‘Let's go to someone who has less baggage,'" he said. "But that's not going to happen because he doesn't have the money to stay up with the big boys."
The next test of the candidates' staying power will come Saturday with the Nevada and Maine caucuses.