Mitt Romney won Florida’s Republican presidential primary by a strong 14-point margin over Newt Gingrich – bolstered by especially staunch support in South Florida.
In Miami-Dade County, former Massachusetts governor Romney carried 61 percent of the vote, compared to just 27 percent for Gingrich, the former House speaker. In Broward County, Romney received 50 percent of the vote versus Gingrich’s 30 percent.
Romney’s win was credited in part to his aggressive attacks against Gingrich on the airwaves. Congressman Connie Mack IV compares the negative attacks – which came from both sides, although Romney and his allies spent far more – to a family feud.
“This is a primary contest – it’s almost within the family and sometimes those can be the most difficult arguments to make,” said Mack, who is a Republican U.S. Senate candidate.
Romney did very well with Florida’s Hispanic voters, who made up 11.1 percent of the registered voters for the primary. Romney won the group by a wide margin – 54 percent to Gingrich’s 29 percent – despite his hard line on illegal immigration, an NBC News exit poll shows.
“The Hispanic community is saying loud and clear it’s an important issue. But what’s most important is the economy and job creation,” Mack said.
Gingrich beat Romney among very conservative and evangelical voters. In his speech in Orlando Tuesday night, he sought to position himself as “the conservative leader” in a shrinking GOP field.
Despite losing, he isn’t giving an inch. His message: there are 46 states to go.
“We are going to contest every place and we are going to win and we will be in Tampa as the nominee in August," Gingrich said.
But former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum and Texas Congressman Ron Paul, who finished third and fourth in Florida, are not giving up.
In Nevada Tuesday night, Santorum said that the mudslinging from Romney and Gingrich in Florida would not help Republicans win the election.
Meantime, Paul rallied his supporters from Henderson, Nevada.
"If enthusiasm wins elections, we win hands down,” he said.