Evidence of the swiftness and totality with which Mitt Romney’s campaign laid waste to Newt Gingrich in Florida: senior Romney officials miscalculated Tuesday night’s turnout by a fair margin, and still won big.
Last week, the Romney brain trust was figuring voters would hit the polls at roughly the clip of the 2010 gubernatorial primary, under 1.3 million, instead of the 2008 presidential primary, which topped 1.9 million. That model, they figured, would inoculate them from Gingrich’s appeal to the populist base.
Instead, with 96 percent of the precincts reporting, the total was approaching 1.65 million, more than 25 percent higher than two years ago. And Romney still won big.
That’s a testament to how hard Romney hit Gingrich in the Sunshine State: on paid media, in debates, through surrogates – all finding their marks in knocking Gingrich off message and into grousing, politics-is-unfair mode, not Gingrich’s most flattering.
The thoroughness and nature of the Gingrich defeat could stir up the earth-scorching Gingrich who roared from the back of the pack and conquered South Carolina. But Romney, with Florida’s 50 delegates in his pocket, now has the beat-Gingrich playbook written indelibly, and the whole month of February to follow it.
NATIONAL JOURNAL'S FLORIDA REPORT
A Li-Mitted Victory for Presumptive GOP Nominee
Even though Romney's win in Florida reestablishes his primacy in the GOP field, the race isn't over yet, and the long road ahead is likely to hurt Romney rather than help him.
Romney Has Obama in His Sights, But Won't Give Gingrich Free Ride
Although he focused primarily on Obama in his victory speech Tuesday night, Romney isn't going to let Gingrich spook him again like he did following his South Carolina victory.
GRAPHIC: Florida Exit Poll Results
Our interactive graphic shows what demographics — ranging from age and race to party affiliation and education level — supported which candidates.
Florida GOP Voters Older, Less White Than Other Early States
This was the first primary restricted to registered Republican voters, and the vote's demographic layout was markedly dissimilar to those of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.
Romney Sets Sights on Obama After Florida Win — VIDEO
In his victory speech, Romney attempted to quell concerns that a protracted primary filled with back-and-forth bickering could cripple the GOP, and turned to attacking Obama.
QUICK TAKE: Santorum Sees Opening with Gingrich Second Place Finish
Speaking from Nevada, Santorum said that Gingrich's failure to beat Romney reveals voters are looking for a different conservative alternative.
Four Factors That Helped Mitt Romney Secure Victory in Florida — VIDEO
Romney won in Florida tonight in part because he outspent Gingrich on television ads, but three other factors played into Romney's eventual sweep of the state's primary.
Gingrich Raises $5 Million in January
The Gingrich camp announced Tuesday that it had crossed the $5 million mark for fundraising in January.
Santorum Raised $4.2 Million in January
He raised slightly less than Newt Gingrich's $5 million for the month, but Santorum has over $1 million cash on hand — more than enough to continue in the race.
Gingrich, Romney Outline Early Actions As President
In their final national TV appearances before Tuesday's Florida primary, Gingrich and Romney outlined their agendas for a hypothetical first month in office — and managed to get in a few digs at each other in the process.
What Romney's Hispanic Support in Florida Means
The Hispanic vote in a Florida Republican race is unique and largely Cuban-American, which means Romney's Hispanic support in Florida may not translate to wider Hispanic support in a general election.
Santorum: I Never Considered Dropping Out
Although his daughter Bella spent the weekend in the hospital (and he spent it with her), Santorum said he never reconsidered going forward with his presidential bid.
Polls Show Split Opinion On Romney's Business Record
Two new polls raise questions on just how much Romney’s record at Bain Capital affects his favorability, National Journal’s Josh Kraushaar writes.
Virginia AG Investigating Gingrich Worker Over Fake Ballot-Petition Signatures
Gingrich alleged that there were mistakes and fraud when one of his supporters turned over signatures to get on the ballot in Virginia. Even if they were legal, though, he wouldn't have made it on the ballot.
What's Romney's Real Tax Rate: 15 or 50 percent?
When the media reported that Romney's total tax rate was 15 percent, some people were angry with Romney for taking advantage of the tax code. But others were angry with the media for getting the numbers wrong.
Gingrich Disavows Knowledge of Robo-Call
A robo-call making its way around Florida today accuses Romney of vetoing a bill that would pay for kosher food for seniors in Massachusetts nursing homes, but Gingrich says he knows nothing about it.
Timeline of 2012 Presidential Primaries and Caucuses
Wondering what's up next (or simply pleading for the primary season to be over)? Check out our calendar to keep track of the upcoming battles on the campaign trail.
FLORIDA NEWS SUMMARY
Romney Wins Big in Florida Primary
[New York Times, 1/31/12] As expected, Romney cruised to a win in Florida on Tuesday with 47 percent support from 53 percent of the state reporting around 8 p.m.
Lessons From the Early Exit Polls in Florida
[New York Times, 1/31/12] The New York Times rounds up eight lessons learned from exit polls tonight, including the fact that Florida's voters are more conservative than they were in 2008 and that evangelical voters played a smaller role in Florida than in other states.
Women, Less Conservative Voters Carry Romney in FL
[Associated Press, 1/31/12] Romney had an overwhelming lead with female voters in Florida, and while Gingrich pulled a majority of the most conservative, Romney took the more moderate voters.
Mitt Romney’s Florida Sweep — And How it Changes the Presidential Race
[The Washington Post, 1/31/12] Romney's Florida win has narrowed the options his opponents have to argue that they are the better candidates, but there's still a long road ahead.
The Florida Primary, By the Numbers
[L.A. Times, 1/31/12] Now that it's all over and done with, the L.A. Times takes a look at the amounts, costs and percentages that made up the race in the Sunshine State.
Newt Concedes Defeat Even Before Polls Close
[BuzzFeed, 1/31/12] The sign behind which Gingrich planned to speak tonight (even before the race had been called!) says it all.
Why Newt Gingrich Won't Quit
[Politico, 1/31/12] Gingrich sees himself as the kind of guy who surprises people and proves conventional wisdom wrong, which is part of the reason he's likely to stay in the race long past Florida.
GOP Race's Approaching Lull Will Test Gingrich
[Associated Press, 1/30/12] February brings seven primaries — which makes for an expensive, plodding campaign — and only one debate. That doesn't bode well for Gingrich, whose strength is in high-energy states and contentious debates.
A GQ&A with Matt Towery, Newt's Favorite Pollster and Oldest Friend
[GQ, 1/31/12] Towery works for InsiderAdvantage and is a close friend of Gingrich. Here, he offers insight into the controversy surrounding Gingrich's ex-wife and the current mood of the Gingrich campaign.
Can Mitt Romney Be Stopped in Nevada?
[The Washington Post, 1/31/12] Though Romney won 51 percent of the vote here in the 2008 caucuses, his opponents are betting that the nature of the Nevada vote and the rise of the Tea Party could help them to take him down in Saturday's vote.
Santorum's New Attack Ad: 'Deal'
The Santorum campaign is slated to run this ad in Nevada tomorrow, which aims to paint Gingrich as a cohort of Obama and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on a number of key Republican-scorned issues.
Super PACs Behind Gingrich Find Limits
[Roll Call, 1/31/12] The less-than-super effect of super PACs in Florida may underscore the limits to how much can be accomplished on the presidential campaign trail by such unrestricted groups.
Why Mitt's Wealth Matters: It's Policy, Not Envy
[The New Republic, 1/30/12] Romney's life story proves that the American capitalist system works — which is why it's so easy for him to campaign against some of the social programs that help folks who don't grow up with the same advantages he's had.
Newt's Nevada Goal: End Santorum
[BuzzFeed, 1/31/12] Even though he's slated to lose Florida, Gingrich is already looking ahead to Nevada — and he's got his crosshairs trained on Santorum. But according to Newsweek columnist John Avlon, Santorum is planning to slam Gingrich with negative ads in Colorado.
A Trump Endorsement Is Imminent
[The Atlantic Wire, 1/31/12] Although Republican candidates would rather hear "You’re fired!" from the Donald, Trump said on Good Morning America today that he will make an endorsement "in a very short time." Just days ago, Trump said that he was still open to running as a third-party candidate.