New poll shows Florida voters moving toward Mitt Romney

By Brent Kallestad

Associated Press

Published: Monday, Jan. 30 2012 9:05 a.m. MST

In this Jan. 26, 2012 file photo, Republican presidential candidates, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney talk during a commercial break at the Republican presidential candidates debate in Jacksonville, Fla.

Associated Press

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» View our political blog, with live updates and analysis of the Florida primary.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney heads into Tuesday's GOP presidential primary with a 14-point lead over former House Speaker Newt Gingrich among likely Florida Republican voters, a new poll shows.

The results of a Quinnipiac University Polling Institute survey released Monday had Romney favored by 43 percent compared to 29 percent for Gingrich. Texas Congressman Ron Paul of Texas and former Pennsylvania U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum each received 11 percent backing in the random telephone survey conducted Friday through Sunday of 539 likely Republican voters in Florida. Just 7 percent said they are still undecided, but 24 percent said they could change their mind by the time they reach their polling site on Tuesday.

The poll's margin of error was plus or minus 4.2 percentage points, Quinnipiac said.

The new survey also showed Romney overtaking Gingrich among self-described conservatives by a 40-31 margin.

"Romney carries every part of the GOP coalition," said Peter Brown, assistant director for the Connecticut-based polling institute. "If this margin holds up tomorrow, it's hard to see where Gingrich goes from here."

Three Quinnipiac polls taken among likely Florida Republican voters over the past week show Gingrich losing momentum in recent days after heading to the Sunshine State with a full head of steam from his double-digit victory over Romney in South Carolina on Jan. 21.

Gingrich and Romney were effectively tied in a poll taken by Quinnipiac between Jan. 19 and 23, but that momentum faded in the wake of two Florida debates last week. Romney's 9-point lead on Friday morning increased to 14 points over the weekend, possibly in part as a result of Thursday's debate in Jacksonville.

Gingrich, however, says he's in the race all the way to the GOP's national convention in Tampa in August.

The Gingrich camp hopes it might still benefit from the momentum gained in South Carolina from roughly a half million votes already cast in Florida, either absentee or in the state's early voting period. On the other hand, Romney's far wealthier campaign could trump that possibility because of its overwhelming number of television ads and stronger get-out-the-vote effort.

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