So the nets called it for Romney the moment polls closed in the central-time-zone portion of Florida. Based on exit polls and regional trends, it looks like Romney will win with about 45% of the vote, and about a 13% margin. That’s a bit below the final projection made by Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight, but certainly a lot better than anyone would have bet on the day after South Carolina.
Romney seems to have won by huge margins in Miami and landslide margins in the Tampa area; as expected, Newt’s doing much better in the Panhandle and NE FL than in the rest of the state. You can expect a big argument from Gingrich supporters tomorrow that his performance in the southern-inflected northern parts of the state are a harbinger of future success in later Deep South primaries.
According to the exits, Mitt won just about every demographic and ideological catergory other than “very conservative” voters, “strong supporters” of the Tea Party, evangelical/born-agains, and people who think abortion should “always be illegal.” Mitt won Florida Hispanics by a very impressive 53-30 margin; his support from Miami’s Cuban-American political leaders paid off very well.
Unless Gingrich shocks the world by folding his tent tonight (hours after he said he’d be in for “six to eight months”), his main task right now is to convince Sheldon Adelson to keep the money flowing to his Super-PAC. Now that I think of it, maybe that was the true audience for that amazing robocall ostensibly targeting Florida Jews!
You’d have to figure Sheldon will stay on board at least until next Saturday’s caucuses in Nevada, so that he can cast his own vote for the man to whose campaign he and his wife have contributed at least $10 million. But beyond that, who knows? And who knows how long Newt will keep it up with or without Adelson’s money?
We’ll take a look at all that and more tomorrow.