According to Drudge, the networks are going to call it for Mitt Romney at exactly 8 o’clock tonight, the moment the final polls close along the Florida panhandle. Will update results as they come in.
98% of precints reporting:
Exit polls have the breakout like this
Mitt Romney 49
Remember that as late as a few weeks ago, Gingrich had a lead in this state. So this will be a huge turnaround victory for Romney, one that he might be able to ride from here across the country and back to Tampa for the convention.
But the result is not so humiliating for Gingrich that he will drop out.
Here are the positives for Romney: It also puts the lie to the idea that the anti-Romney vote is much larger than the Romney vote or that Romney has a ceiling in the mid-30s among Republicans.
Here are the negatives for Newt Gingrich. With a big double-digit victory, it is likely that the exit polls will show even uglier data for Gingrich – namely that he lost self-identified conservatives and Tea Partiers to Romney. If Newt gets soundly beaten among voters that are presumed to be in “his base,” it’s going to be difficult to explain why he should continue.
As for Paul and Santorum. They are both in Nevada by now.
It’s going to be difficult for both campaigns to keep their supporters motivated in the upcoming caucus states when the media begins declaring Mitt Romney the presumptive nominee.
UPDATE 10:13 It’s clear that Newt Gingrich won the Florida panhandle, giving at least some credibility to the idea that he can compete with Romney in any other future Southern contests.
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