U.S. presidential candidate Mitt Romney received a boost in his bid for the Republican Party nomination with a solid win Tuesday in the Florida primary race.
In a victory speech , Romney criticized President Barack Obama and blamed him for the economic woes of the country. He promised to repeal the president’s health care reform, balance the budget, and usher the country into a new era of economic prosperity.
“This campaign is about more than replacing a president. It’s about saving the soul of America. President Obama and I have very different visions of America. President Obama wants to grow government and continue to amass trillion-dollar deficits. I will not just slow the growth of government. I will cut the spending of government. I will not just freeze government’s share of the total economy. I will reduce it. And without raising taxes, I will finally get America to a balanced budget.”
With nearly all the votes counted, the former Massachusetts governor won 46 percent of the Florida vote, far ahead of his closest rival, former House speaker Newt Gingrich, who garnered 32 percent. The Florida Republican primary came a little more than a week after Romney was soundly defeated by Gingrich in South Carolina’s primary.
Strong debate performances and heavy advertising that attacked Gingrich helped Romney win in Florida. In his speech, he told supporters he will change the direction of the country.
“If this election is a bidding war for who can promise the most goodies and the most benefits, then I’m not your president. You have that president today. But if you want to make this election about restoring American greatness, then I hope you’ll join us. If you believe the disappointments of the last few years are a detour, and not our destiny, then I’m asking for your vote.”
But Gingrich, who trailed in the polls for months last year only to surge to a big win in South Carolina, has vowed that his campaign will not end.
“And I think Florida did something very important, coming on top of South Carolina. It is now clear that this will be a two-person race between the conservative leader, Newt Gingrich, and the Massachusetts moderate. And the voters of Florida really made that clear. Now you will notice that a number of people are holding up a sign about 46 states to go. We did this in part for the elite media, because the same people who said I was dead in June and July, and said I was gone after Iowa, who seemed totally quiet after the night of the South Carolina victory are now going to be back saying, ‘What’s he going to do? What’s he going to do?’ So I just want to reassure them tonight. We are going to contest every place and we are going to win and we will be in Tampa as the nominee in August.”
Gingrich was confident after the Florida poll, telling supporters he will be victorious.
“Now, you might ask, in the face of a five-to-one onslaught, how can that be true? And I will give you the answer. It was stated at a historic moment in 1863 in dedicating our first national military cemetery by the president of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, who said, ‘We have government of the people, by the people, for the people.’ And we are going to have people power defeat money power in the next six months.”
Florida is among the states with the largest number of delegates at stake, and the winner not only garners more delegate support for the Republican national convention later this year, but his campaign may draw in new backers in other states.
The delegates officially nominate the candidate to face President Obama, a Democrat, in the November presidential election.
Former U.S. senator Rick Santorum and Texas Representative Ron Paul also were on the ballot in Florida, but they were far behind the front-runners.
During the Florida campaign, Gingrich lashed out at Romney, accusing him of being a liberal and running dishonest political ads. The former congressman said he expects a long campaign in the battle for the party nomination.
Romney has said that Gingrich was making excuses for his debate performances, and he criticized Gingrich for being found guilty of ethics violations that forced him to resign as House speaker.
SANTORUM AND PAUL ALSO AVAIL:
Rick Santorum: “There’s one message that I think we got from the campaign in Florida, is that Republicans can do better. We have to do better than this. We can do better than the discussion, and the dialogue and the accusations that were going on in the state of Florida. And really, this campaign, you know, went downhill.”
Ron Paul: “But let me tell you, something big is happening in this country and it’s all very favorable. There’s a mess up in Washington. They’ve created a mess. They’ve given us a lousy foreign policy, they’ve given us a lousy budget and they’ve given us a lousy recession. But where the wonderful thing is happening is in the grassroots. People are beginning to realize that the problem is too much government. We need more personal liberty.”