Mitt Romney rolled to victory in the Florida primary Tuesday, dispatching Newt Gingrich after his win in South Carolina and reclaiming a dominant position in the GOP race.
The triumph by Romney offered perhaps his first forceful response to the concerns that were raised about his candidacy only 10 days ago ... and throughout the last year.
While there remain plenty of doubters, a 14-point win with no asterisk in the biggest state so far (Romney won all 50 delegates) will resonate more than his past results.
That isn't saying too much, given that he's yet to win a majority in any state (although Florida's delegates were winner-take-all). Nevertheless, he beat Newt convincingly.
“A competitive primary does not divide us,” Romney told supporters. “It prepares us. And we will win. I stand ready to lead this party and to lead our nation.”
But if the Florida Republican primary results promised to reorder the field, none of Romney's challengers got the memo. Gingrich quickly pledged to fight on.
Gingrich spoke to a crowd in Orlando holding signs reading “46 States to Go,” saying he had a message for those wondering about the future of his 2012 bid.
“We are going to contest every place, and we will win,” said Gingrich, who did not congratulate Romney for his victory, nor did he call him on Tuesday night.
Rick Santorum, who finished third, and Ron Paul, who finished fourth, have also shown no indication that they're dropping out of the race anytime soon.
The next month is relatively light on primaries and caucuses, leading up to the Super Tuesday slate of elections March 6. Nevada and Maine vote Saturday.
The 2012 Florida GOP primary results:
- Mitt Romney: 771,842 (46.4%)
- Newt Gingrich: 531,294 (31.9%)
- Rick Santorum: 222,248 (13.4%)
- Ron Paul: 116,776 (7.0%)