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Dissecting Romney’s Florida Victory

1. The reach and scope of Governor Romney’s primary victory in Florida was enormous. He not only defeated Newt Gingrich by more than 14 points, Romney’s total was larger than the combined total of both Gingrich and Rick Santorum. Romney won among men and women; in all age, income, and education categories; among whites and Hispanics; among those who support and oppose the Tea Party; among those who decided early and those who decided late; and among evangelicals. Among the only categories Romney did not carry was those who described themselves “very conservative” (Gingrich carried 41 percent of the vote while Romney took 30 percent). Those who consider themselves “somewhat conservative” went for Romney 52 percent v. 32 percent for Gingrich.

Almost half the voters in Florida (46 percent) said electability was their top concern – and of that group, they preferred the former Massachusetts governor by 26 percentage points. And of the 62 percent of voters who said the economy was the issue that matters most to them, 52 percent went for Romney  v. 30 percent for Gingrich.

2. The Washington Post makes this point: “Florida, the fourth state to vote this primary season, was not only the biggest prize yet, but also the purest test of where the party stands nationally. Unlike earlier primaries in New Hampshire  and South Carolina, Florida’s contest was open only to registered Republicans; about seven in 10 voters identified themselves as somewhat or very conservative, according to exit polls.”

3. Among the key factors in Romney’s win were the debates. ABC News reports that around two-thirds of Florida voters say the debates were an important factor in their vote in yesterday’s primary. In addition, about four in 10 voters said advertising was an important factor in their vote. All told, Newt Gingrich was outspent on TV ads by as much as 5-to-1, with 90 percent of those ads negative. Gingrich was enraged by this and complained throughout the contest, trying to make it a referendum on Romney’s character. Yet as the Post reports, “voters didn’t perceive Romney as overly negative.” Thirty four percent said Romney had run an unfair campaign while an equal 34 percent said the same of Gingrich, according to exit polling.

4. Governor Romney came within a hair’s width of winning three of four states that cast votes in January. Romney won by 16 points in New Hampshire, by 14 points in Florida, and came within 35 votes of winning Iowa (out of roughly 120,000 votes cast). The only election in which he was soundly beaten was in South Carolina, where Gingrich defeated Romney by 12 points. Gingrich, on the other hand, finished fourth, fifth, first, and second in the four contests.

5. The three most important contests in February are held in Arizona, Nevada, and Michigan. In 2008, Romney won the latter two (he came in second to Arizona Senator John McCain that year). Maine, Minnesota and Colorado also hold (non-binding) contests this month, and Romney won those three races in 2008. Romney is also the clear favorite to win in most of the 11 contests that will be held on March 6 (delegates will be rewarded proportionately). It’s also worth noting there’s only one debate on the schedule for February (February 22 in Arizona).

If Mitt Romney were to lose the nomination, he would have to experience an epic collapse, unlike any we have seen. Is it conceivable this could happen? Yes. Is it at all likely it will happen? No.

The GOP primary may not be officially over. But we know who the GOP nominee will be.

Get ready for Romney v. Obama.