Romney Wins Florida GOP Primary; Hillsborough Republicans React
Mitt Romney earns a convincing victory over Newt Gingrich and other Republican nominees in Florida's Presidential Preference Primary.
Mitt Romney won the Florida Presidential Preference Primary on Tuesday, earning the state's 50 delegates and distancing himself from Newt Gingrich as the Republican frontrunner for 2012.
The Associated Press projected Romney's commanding victory shortly after 8 p.m. when the final polls closed in Florida's Panhandle.
The former Massachusetts governor had taken 46 percent of the vote to 31 percent for Gingrich after returns from 99 percent of the polls were in. Rick Santorum had 13 percent, and Ron Paul 7 percent.
"Florida, you're the best," a victorious Romney told a crowd gathered at his primary night celebration at the downtown Tampa Convention Center.
Reactions to Romney's win were mixed among local Republicans.
"I was surprised he won by this margin," said Art Wood, chairman of the Hillsborough County Republican Party.
Wood said he thinks Romney was so successful in the state because he has been campaigning here the longest.
Tina Pike, the state committeewoman for the Hillsborough County Republican Party, had a different reaction.
“(Romney) understands that just because you make $1 million doesn't mean you get to keep it."
Candidates should “just tell me what you're going to do. Take a page from Marco Rubio."
How Hillsborough Voted
Unofficial results from the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections showed Romney took 47.6 percent of the vote, topping Gingrich's 28.2 percent.
Romney garnered more than 42,300 of the nearly 90,000 votes cast by Hillsborough County Republicans.
The Importance of Florida
The "Interstate 4 corridor" and the Tampa Bay area in particular had been prime territory for some of the candidates' campaigns in the days and weeks leading up to Tuesday's vote.
Gingrich attended grassroots rallies in Brandon, St. Petersburg and in Tampa, where he brought supporter and former GOP candidate Herman Cain along.
The win in Florida would have been even bigger for Romney, but the state was penalized by the Republican National Committee for moving up its primary date, getting stripped of half of its 99 delegates.
Florida is expected to again be a battleground state in the 2012 general election. In 2008, Barack Obama took 50 percent of the vote, narrowly edging Republican Sen. John McCain's 48 percent.
Romney has taken 84 delegates — but needs a total of 1,144 to win the Republican nomination.
Now the campaign trail shifts to Nevada and Maine for their caucuses on Feb. 4.