Mitt Romney won an unsurprising, albeit decisive, victory in Florida’s Republican primary on Tuesday, taking more than 46 per cent of the vote and routing his main rival Newt Gingrich by 14.5 per cent. Way back in third place, social conservative Rick Santorum garnered just 13.34 per cent of the vote.
Romney took his deep wallet to Florida with him, where his campaign outspent Gingrich’s by at least US$12 million. Much of that went towards attack ads, which painted Gingrich as a hot-headed hypocrite with a history of flip-flopping on key conservative policies.
In his victory speech in Tampa on Tuesday night, Romney tried to distance himself from the Republican race, employing rhetoric that assumes he will be the one to face President Barack Obama in November’s U.S. presidential election. He also worked to hit all the right notes that resonate with the small-government, low tax mind-set of the Republican base. “President Obama wants to grow government and continue to amass trillion dollar deficits. I will not just slow the growth of government, I will cut it. I will not just freeze the government’s share of the total economy, I will reduce it. And without raising taxes, I will finally balance the budget,” Romney said.
Now, as the primaries roll on to Nevada, the key battle for Romney will be winning support from the Tea Party movement and those social conservatives that support Gingrich. The contest is a bitter one. As the Washington Post reported, Gingrich was the only candidate not to place a congratulations call to Romney after his Florida win.