Romney Holds A Strong Lead As Florida Heads To Final Days

Mitt Romney seems poised for victory in Florida.

With 48 hours to go before Primary Day voting starts, things seem to be breaking Mitt Romney’s way. He’s had two good debates in which his strength was enhanced by obvious mis-steps by Newt Gingrich, he’s had two of Florida’s most popular Republicans, Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, come to his defense over allegations in Gingrich ads, and he’s leading in the polls. Unless something truly groundbreaking happens between now and Tuesday (and, no, I don’t mean the Herman Cain endorsement of Newt Gingrich) or the polls are wildly in accurate, it’s looking like Romney is going to win Florida and position himself very nicely headed in to February.

In the latest Public Policy Polling poll, Romney finds himself eight points ahead of Gingrich:

PPP finds the same thing in its newest Florida poll that all surveys of the state have found in the last few days: strong movement away from Newt Gingrich and toward Mitt Romney.  Romney now leads with 40% to 32% for Gingrich, 15% for Rick Santorum, and 9% for Ron Paul. Romney has gained 7 points and Gingrich has dropped by 6 since our last poll, which was conducted Sunday and Monday.

It’s clear that the negative attacks on Gingrich have been the major difference maker over the last week. His net favorability has declined 13 points from +23 (57/34) to only +10 (50/40) in just five days. Romney has pretty much stayed in place. At the beginning of the week he was at +31 (61/30) and now he’s at +33 (64/31).

Santorum is actually the most well liked candidate among Florida voters with 65% seeing him favorably to 24% with a negative opinion.  In Iowa Santorum’s persistently high favorability ratings were a precursor to his late surge.  But as popular as he is, he’s only gone from 13% to 15% support in the last week.  It seems unlikely that he’ll be able to break into the top two.

The backbone of Romney’s support in Florida is senior citizens.  He’s getting 50% of their voters with Gingrich at only 28%. Romney also appears to have a pretty good sized lead in the bank. Among those who have already voted he’s at 45% to 35% for Gingrich.

The poll [PDF] also shows Gingrich with a  9-point gender gap among women, with Romney getting 41% of women to Gingrich’s 32%. Perhaps most importantly, though, are the results for those who say that they have already voted either by absentee or through Florida’s early voting. Among that group, Romney leads Gingrich 45% to 35%. According to some estimates, more people have already voted early in Florida than vote in South Carolina, New Hampshire, and Iowa combined. Even if you don’t take into account what seems to be the late surge toward Romney, it’s pretty clear that Gingrich would have a big problem overcoming Romney’s early voting advantage, which could end up proving decisive.

A second poll from The Miami Herald has Gingrich trailing Romney by 11 points:

Newt Gingrich swaggered into Florida as a Republican front-runner, but now he’s close to slipping out as an also-ran against a resurgent Mitt Romney.

Gingrich is badly trailing Romney by 11 percentage points, garnering just 31 percent of likely Republican voters heading into Tuesday’s presidential primary, according to a Miami Herald/El Nuevo Herald/Tampa Bay Times poll released late Saturday night.

President Barack Obama should be wary as well. Romney beats Obama by a 48-44 percent spread — a lead inside the error-margin, however — in a theoretical general-election matchup, the poll shows.

In the Republican primary, Romney’s lead looks insurmountable. It cuts across geographic, ethnic and gender lines. And the poll indicates Romney’s attack on Gingrich as a Freddie Mac insider is a hit with GOP voters.


Gingrich also has a gender problem. Women back Romney by a lopsided 19 percentage points over Gingrich, which could be a sign that questions about his three marriages could be haunting him.

Romney’s campaign is more organized and better funded. For weeks, he has been advertising, calling and mailing Republicans in an effort to bank early and absentee votes. But for the few days after South Carolina’s primary that Gingrich won, there’s a good chance Romney won the early-ballot battle.

The poll shows about 47 percent of early voters sided with Romney and 35 percent with Gingrich. About 500,000 GOP ballots have been cast early out of a turnout that could reach roughly two million.

The poll also shows that Romney has a huge advantage in Southeast Florida, thanks in large part to strong support from the Cuban community in the Miami area, which would seem to indicate that Gingrich’s efforts to appeal to Hispanic voters over the past week or so have been for naught. There’s also indications that Gingrich’s campaign in Florida isn’t nearly well-organized enough to compete in a state like Florida, such as the news that they had sent campaign mail to voters who had voted three weeks ago by absentee, something that could have easily been checked by a campaign with sufficient infrastructure.

Just out this morning, though, are two new polls that suggest that the surge toward Romney may be overwhelming, and that the former Massachusetts Governor could be headed to a decisive victory. The new Rassmussen poll has Romney ahead of Gingrich by sixteen points, the largest lead that Romney has had in the Sunshine State for quite some time. Even more impressive, though, is the new NBC News/Marist Poll that has Romney leading Gingrich 44% to 27%, a difference of 15 points. If Romney comes close to this kind of win over Gingrich, a lot of people are going to forget that South Carolina even happened.

Finally a fifth, less well-known, poll also has Gingrich trailing Romney by 11 points. This poll also shows the same demographic and geographic advantages for Romney as the other polls, including the much-discussed gender gap.

So, here’s where RealClearPolitics puts the race as of today:

Nate Silver’s latest projection gives Romney an 88% chance of winning Florida, and that sounds about right at this point. Absent some major change in the race that moves voter sentiment significantly between now and Tuesday it seems fairly clear that things are set for a fairly sizable Romney victory Tuesday night, which should set him up nicely as we head into February. When it comes to those February contests, Romney is fairly well-situated as well. Of course, Newt Gingrich has a billionaire casino magnate funding his SuperPAC and has vowed to stay in the race until the convention, so it’s possible he will keep chasing Romney for several months just as Ron Paul is likely to. What Florida seems to be revealing, though, is that when it comes down to competing in big states and running the kind of multi-state campaign that will be taking place over the next few months, there’s only one person in the race and his name his Mitt Romney. Before long, Gingrich may end up being reduced to being little more than the puppy nipping at Romney’s heels as he keeps collecting delegates on his way to victory.

FILED UNDER: 2012 Election, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Ron Beasley says:

    Romney will get the nomination but the campaign has left him damaged goods.

  2. grumpy realist says:

    @Ron Beasley: I was about to ask that–how dinged up does everything think this has left Romney?

    (Damn–I was hoping that Newt would win Florida, just so that I could hear the hysterical screaming from the Republican party. But with this level of an expected blow-out, how long do people think Newt will stay in the race?)

  3. DRS says:

    It’ll be interesting to see if Romney keeps up the energy flow if/when he wins Florida, or if he lapses back into smug-mode again. I still don’t see where he has coat tails that can benefit other races on the ticket.

  4. grumpy realist says:

    (Sorry, that’s everyONE up above, not everyTHING.)

  5. Ron Beasley says:

    And this sort of thing is not going to help with the Evangelicals and Catholics.

  6. Brummagem Joe says:

    Surprise, surprise Romney is going to be the nominee and I’m sure the base will be only too happy to fall in line and vote for him. But what if some of them don’t. What if some are very unhappy because the leadership has imposed a Gordon Gekko type Wall Street asset stripper with Swiss and Cayman Island bank accounts who introduced the pilot for Obamacare. Yeah I know MA is completely different from the rest of America.

  7. Terrye says:

    @Ron Beasley: Romney is not half as damaged as Barack Obama is.

  8. Brummagem Joe says:


    I guess we’ll find out won’t we?

  9. Ron Beasley says:

    @Terrye: Looks like Obama’s approval is about 13 points higher than Romney’s. and Obama’s is on the way up while Romney is headed down.

  10. superdestroyer says:

    Who cares? Does anyone believe that Romney can beat President Obama.

    The more interesting analysis is how many seats will the Democrats pick up in the U.S. House and whether the Democrats will lose seats in the Senate.

    The outcomes of the congressional races will have a much greater affect on policy and governance than worrying about irrelevant Republican primaries.

  11. anjin-san says:

    Romney is not half as damaged as Barack Obama is.

    Damaged how? Outside of the Foxverse that is? Even the Murdoch owned WSJ admits we are in a job recovery. Confidence in the economy is up. Obama’s numbers are up. Bin Laden is at the bottom of the sea and Al-Qaeda has been decimated. Our troops are not dying in Iraq, and we are not pouring endless billions into that sink hole like the previous administration did. The GOP nomination produced possibly the biggest clown show in the history of American politics.

    You are going to have to do better than a flat assertation with nothing behind it. We already know that 27% won’t vote for Obama. Where will the GOP get votes beyond that?

  12. JohnMcC says:

    The headline provided by the Gallup organization for their latest national (not Florida) poll is “Newt Gingrich is now the candidate of choice for 32% of Republican voters nationwide, his highest level of support this year. The 24% supporting Mitt Romney is his lowest.”

    And although I do not doubt that Mr Romney will be the nominee, the work of Ms Palin and Mr Limbaugh and others on behalf of Mr Gingrich will not stop. The tension within the Repub party is going to become greater and greater.

    More popcorn!

  13. Brummagem Joe says:


    If the turnout is sufficient to re-elect the president (ie. north of 25 million) the Dems will hold the senate and win a few house seats back but not sufficient to take the house back. This I would regard as the optimum solution for Obama because it leaves Republicans with some responsibility but leaves Obama in control of the agenda.

  14. Brummagem Joe says:


    Btw you’re completely wrong about the balance of power between the executive and the legislature. The presidency these days is infinitely more powerful these days.

  15. Barb Hartwell says:

    If this keeps going like this by November I wonder how many Republicans are going to change parties, or hold their noses and vote. For all you Obama haters I do not get it. What has he done or not done that you would choose any of these nutbags over him. I still think about everything he said at the State of the Union Address and I believe if anyone who read his words,and were not told who they came from, they would have been inspired.

  16. Ron Beasley says:


    We already know that 27% won’t vote for Obama. Where will the GOP get votes beyond that?

    The question is how many of that 27% won’t vote for Romney either?

  17. You know what just occurred to me? Maybe I haven’t been watching closely enough, but I don’t think we’ve ever had a real Romney fan show up and comment at OTB. The theme, including among the hosts, is one of tacit acceptance.

    That’s astounding, isn’t it? A presidential front-runner without a fan club?

    Perhaps it’s the way OTB slices the audience.

  18. Eric Florack says:

    Romney at this point is outspending Gingrich and Florida on the order of seven to one on ads and whatnot. There are couple of implications worth noting from this.

    First of all with that kind of differential in the money being spent, you would think there would be more of a differential in the way voters feel him that state than there is. The man is clearly a weak candidate. Even, and I stress this, even in the eyes of Florida voters.

    Even with the amount of money being spent, Romney has to rely on lies to get what he wants. The business with Romney attacking Gingrich over supposed ethics violations? Right out of the Democrat PLaybook of the day. Let’s recall the basis of these ethics violations… a group of Democrats frantic to get him out of office by any mearns nessesary. Somehting like 80 different charges… all of which but one didn’t stick… and the one that did was years later proven to be a lie as well.

    A lie which Romney now signs onto.

  19. Brummagem Joe says:

    @Eric Florack: a group of Democrats frantic to get him out of office by any mearns nessesary. Somehting like 80 different charges… all of which but one didn’t stick… and the one that did was years later proven to be a lie as well.

    Hardly. He didn’t pay something like $350,000 to settle ethics violations charges over nothing.

  20. Eric Florack says:

    Yep. And two years after he paid the fine to get his opponents to shut up,
    But was found innocent on the one charge, two years after the fact. I blogged about it at the time, asking where Gingrich goes to get his reputation back. . I think that post has gotten lost. I’m still looking.
    But, this should serve.

    Following the recent threats from Nancy Pelosi and the heavy brush with which the media are painting Newt Gingrich as unethical, the Media Research Center is now calling on the networks to seize the moment and report the truth from nearly 13 years ago.

    It has been 4,689 days since the IRS formally cleared Newt Gingrich of any violation of tax law. It’s been 4,689 days since ABC, CBS, and NBC have had the opportunity to report it. What the heck. Why not today? Now is the time for these networks to report the truth for once. The networks owe it to the American people to report the fact that in 1999 the IRS completely vindicated Gingrich.

  21. Brummagem Joe says:

    @Eric Florack: “Yep. And two years after he paid the fine to get his opponents to shut up,”

    Oh he was paying hush money then?

  22. An Interested Party says:

    Romney will get the nomination but the campaign has left him damaged goods.

    Thank you Newt Gingrich…I wonder when, if ever, his supposedly brilliant mind will realize that he has played a part in helping the President to get re-elected…

  23. Eric Florack says:

    even george soros says that there is nothing real difference between obama and Romney. So if obama does get re elected over rob me what difference does it make?

  24. An Interested Party says:

    So if obama does get re elected over rob me what difference does it make?

    Possibly 3 or more new SCOTUS Justices….and that’s just for starters…