Less than two weeks ago, Mitt Romney had a 22-point lead in Florida, but that’s ancient history in the race for the Republican presidential nomination. Following his big win in South Carolina on Saturday, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich now is on top in Florida by nine.
The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Florida Republican Primary Voters, taken Sunday evening, finds Gingrich earning 41% of the vote with Romney in second at 32%. Former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum runs third with 11%, while Texas Congressman Ron Paul attracts support from eight percent (8%). Nine percent (9%) remain undecided.
Romney’s campaign has always been about inevitability, but South Carolina’s winning record for picking the GOP candidate since 1980 has essentially smashed that…
Throughout the GOP race, Romney has always benefited from the perception that he was the strongest general election candidate in the field. However, among Florida voters at the moment, that is no longer the case. Forty-two percent (42%) now believe Gingrich would be the strongest candidate against Obama, while 39% say the same of Romney. At the other extreme, 64% see Ron Paul as the weakest potential candidate against Obama.
Looks like the GOP might have a long nomination fight on its hands, ala Democrats 2008. And that might not be the worst thing in the world because what that allowed Obama to have was a continuous national spotlight where people got to know him through the prism of a Democratic debate…instead of being defined by the Republicans.
Now, I’m not sure if that’s the best thing for Newt, but for Romney? Perhaps.
One other question…what happens when Santorum drops out? My guess is that a lot of that support will go to Newt because those are the GOPers who can’t abide by Romney’s former support for abortion or his Mormon background. And while I hate to be simplistic about such things, I have to think that if you’re casting your ballot for Santorum, you’re probably a single issue voter given how polarizing he is.
More as it develops…