Romney holds commanding lead in Florida polls on eve of crucial primary

By Collegian News Staff

As Florida Republican voters prepare to head to the polls for today’s crucial primaries, it appears all but certain that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney will win the Sunshine State’s nod.

A Quinnipiac University poll of likely Florida Republican voters released Monday gave Romney a 14-point lead over his chief rival, former Speaker of the House and Georgia Rep. Newt Gingrich, who has surged to potential nominee status in recent weeks, scoring an unexpected victory in the last primary, held in South Carolina. Romney won New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary and appeared to have the Republican nomination secured after seeming to win Iowa’s Jan. 3 caucus, but a recount lasting several weeks reversed the former venture capitalist’s victory and showed that former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum won Iowa by a narrow margin.

Since South Carolina’s Jan. 21 primaries, the politicking in Florida has been fierce, as Romney, Gingrich and, to a lesser extent, Santorum’s campaigns have released a barrage of attack ads slamming their opponents’ credibility, sincerity and history. Gingrich has accused Romney and his campaign of being dishonest about his record as a conservative and has lambasted his performance as director of Bain Capital, an asset management company he founded which shut down some of its subsidiaries in Florida and elsewhere, resulting in some job losses. Meanwhile, Romney has attacked the former Speaker’s credibility on social values issues, which have played a lesser role in Florida’s race this time around. Romney has staunchly attacked President Obama’s policies in the Sunshine State and has largely staked his chances on claims that he has the best chance of beating the president in a general election.

Although the former governor has won just one of the three early contests, this one is different. Florida, with a diverse population of over 18 million consisting heavily of fiscally conservative retirees, socially conservative southern evangelicals and Hispanic Catholics, is more representative of the nation at large in its demography and leanings and, given that its population trumps that of all three of the early primary states, carries with it a hefty 50 delegates to the Republican National Convention.

Although it appears Romney will glide to victory in Florida, his campaign continued to downplay expectations for a landslide in the event that the outcome is tighter than expected. The political news site Politico reported that Romney’s advisers were predicting a six-to-eight point victory Tuesday, short of what polls were indicating but still significant enough to send the message that Romney can win a major state.

In a seemingly baffling turn of events, former GOP candidate and pizza magnate Herman Cain has reversed his initial endorsement of “we the people” and lent his support to Gingrich. Cain has joined the former Georgia lawmaker at stops around Florida as Gingrich continued to attack Romney’s ties to major financial institutions and Massachusetts politics, which are seen as particularly liberal on the national scale.

Following today’s voting, the nation’s attention will turn to Nevada, which will vote on Saturday. Next week, Colorado and Minnesota will caucus for their 36 and 40 delegates, respectively, to the RNC.

–Collegian News Staff