Romney's strong performance also shows some weakness
Published: Tuesday, January 31, 2012 at 10:20 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 31, 2012 at 11:47 p.m.
Mitt Romney comfortably carried the state in Tuesday's primary, but he did not carry Alachua County and other areas of North Central Florida, according to preliminary results.
While Romney leaves the state with a head of steam, Florida also reinforced the lesson of the South Carolina primary: He will struggle in the South, said Daniel Smith, the director of the Political Campaigning Program at the University of Florida.
But it was an overall strong showing, Smith said, with Romney improving on 2008 in key metropolitan areas of Miami-Dade and Tampa Bay. There also was the support from Hispanic voters that Romney lacked four years ago, Smith said.
"He did very well," Smith said. "He's done great along both coasts and he's done very well in the Tampa Bay area."
In Alachua County, Newt Gingrich edged Romney — 6,321 votes to 6,203, according to preliminary results. Gingrich carried other North Florida counties, including Gilchrist, Dixie, Levy, Bradford and Clay — by a wider percentage margin.
"That tells you the problem Mitt Romney has in the South," Smith said. "North Florida is the South. Mitt Romney did very poorly in South Carolina and he did very poorly in North Central Florida. Southern Baptists are not supporting Mitt Romney."
Still, Romney carried the state by a comfortable margin. Given Florida's significance in presidential politics, that builds powerful momentum moving forward, Alachua County Republican Executive Committee Chairman Stafford Jones said.
"You win Florida, especially like this, with this big a margin, you come out with a lot of momentum," Jones said. "Marco Rubio said today that the candidate who wins Florida is going to win the nomination and there's something to be said for that."
Contact Christopher Curry at 374-5088 or firstname.lastname@example.org.