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Romney secures solid win in Florida GOP primary: CNN

(Xinhua)

13:36, February 01, 2012

WASHINGTON, Jan. 31 (Xinhua) -- Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney won the Florida primary Tuesday by a significant margin, CNN reported.

The former Massachusetts governor grabbed 47 percent of the vote, followed by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich with 32 percent, the U.S. broadcaster projected while the ballots were still being calculated.

Romney's win was well expected as a spade of polls conducted over the last few days showed he was enjoying double-digit lead over Gingrich, his closest rival.

The former governor had been an underdog in this race after suffering a body blow in the South Carolina primary ten days ago, trailing the former speaker by up to ten points in the Sunshine State polls. But he turned in a major rebound in the finals days into the contest with strong debate performances and heavy ads buying primarily targeting Gingrich.

Among the other competitors in the field, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum got 13 percent of the vote, with Texas congressman Ron Paul at the bottom with 7 percent.

Addressing his supporters at his headquarters in Tampa, Florida, Romney said a competitive primary "does not divide us, it prepares us and we will win."

He was referring to the increasingly negative campaigns he and his GOP fellows have been undertaking, which raised concerns that it would damage the eventual GOP nominee and benefit President Barack Obama.

Romney continued with his anti-Obama message, saying his leadership "will end the Obama era and begin a new era of prosperity."

"Mr. President, you were elected to lead, you chose to follow, and now it's time to get out of the way," he said.

With the first three nominating contests won by three different candidates -- Iowa by Santorum, New Hampshire by Romney, and South Carolina by Gingrich, Florida was seen as a pivotal battleground as it would serve as a tie breaker and add some clarity to the race for the Republican presidential nomination.

The Florida primary is hugely important also in that with a population outnumbering the combination of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, Florida has the largest Republican electorate of the early contests and its winner will take all its 50 delegates.

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