Huffpost Politics

Florida Primary 2012: Live Updates From The Sunshine State

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All eyes are on the Sunshine State after Newt Gingrich's double-digit win over Mitt Romney in South Carolina's primary election.

The competition between the two contenders, along with rival candidates Ron Paul and Rick Santorum, is sure to spark fireworks ahead of Florida's Jan. 31 contest.

Romney came out on top of New Hampshire's primary election, while Santorum placed first in the 2012 Iowa caucus.

Check out the live blog below for the latest developments out of Florida.

live blog

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@ howardfineman : So MItt has secret service -- not the nomination, but will do for now.

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The AP reports:

Women abandoned Newt Gingrich in droves Tuesday and helped fuel former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's triumph in Florida's Republican presidential primary, according to preliminary data from an exit poll of voters.

Click here to read more.

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HuffPost polling expert Mark Blumenthal explains what went down in Florida and what we can expect in the coming weeks:

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@ howardfineman : Newt won virtually all of North Florida -- the "southern" part of the state, which gives him hope for Super Tuesday on March 6

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TAMPA, Fla. -- Mitt Romney is getting Secret Service protection starting

Thursday. ABC breaks the news:

Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign has been informed that it will start receiving Secret Service protection on Thursday, two campaign sources and a senior Republican with ties to the campaign

tell ABC News.

Secret Service protection is being given to the campaign not because of a specific threat but because of the increase in crowd sizes as the primary season has progressed over the past few weeks, according to the sources, who refused to be identified because they don’t have

authority to comment on such matters publicly.

-- Jon Ward

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@ philipaklein : FL turnout was 1.94 mln in '08 GOP primary, it's at 1.6 mln w/ 95% precincts in. State GOP was hoping for over 2 mln.

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@ AliNBCNews : DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz on @msnbctv: President Obama won FL in 2008, he will win FL again

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@ TheFix : Restore Our Future, Romney super PAC, raised million in 2011. Wowza.

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@ BuzzFeedBen : A Newt insider emails, re tonight's finish: "Devastating"

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@ crowleyCNN : Paul &Santorum called Mitt 2 congratulate. Gingrich did not. ( says romney source) I think newt might be upset.

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The Tampa Bay Times posted the text of an email from Florida Democratic Chairman Rod Smith congratulating Romney on his Florida win:

Mitt Romney won in Florida tonight for a very simple reason -- he ran the most negative primary contest ever. Romney and his allies outspent Newt Gingrich by nearly 5 to 1, almost all of it on negative advertising. He may have won this contest, but he lost the opportunity to win the hearts and minds of the people of Florida. Floridians, like all Americans, are looking for positive ideas that will rebuild an economy that works for the middle class. But they won’t find them during this primary campaign. Instead, Romney has flipped between negative attacks on Gingrich and distortions to his own positions, in a blatant attempt to pander to seniors and Latino voters. There’s a reason a vast majority of Florida voters want someone new to jump in this race – they know they can’t trust Mitt Romney to stand by his beliefs or stand by anything that helps average Americans get ahead.

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@ daveweigel : Gingrich did not call to concede to Romney. Mitt had called to concede to him in SC. #burn

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HuffPost reports:

Rachel Maddow grilled Florida Congressman John Mica about whether Mitt Romney's personal finances and work at Bain Capital were "unpatriotic" on Tuesday night.

Romney's career and wealth, of course, have both been hot button issues in the campaign. The candidate released his 2010 tax return after much criticism about his reluctance to do so. The return revealed that he earned .7 million in 2010, and paid a lower tax rate than someone who earns ,000 a year.

Click here to read more.

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@ howardfineman : Having gotten rest, Ron Paul is on his game tonight. He's a greater threat to beat Romney upcoming caucuses then Newt is. He needs a win.

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TAMPA, Fla. -- Here are Mitt Romney's remarks as prepared for delivery,

released by his campaign:

Thank you all. To the people of Florida tonight, thank you for this great victory. There are fewer candidates than when the race began, but the three gentlemen left are serious and able competitors. And I congratulate them on another hard-fought contest

in this campaign.

Primary contests are not easy -– and they’re not supposed to be. As this primary unfolds, our opponents in the other party have been watching. They like to comfort themselves with the thought that a

competitive campaign will leave us divided and weak.

But I’ve got some news for them: A competitive primary does not divide us; it prepares us. And when we gather here in Tampa seven months from now for our convention, ours will be a united party with a

winning ticket for America!

Three years ago this week, a newly elected President Obama faced the American people and said that if he couldn’t turn the economy around in three years, he’d be looking at a one-term proposition. We’re here

to collect.

Since then, we’ve had 35 months of unemployment over 8 percent. Under this President, Americans have seen more job losses and more home

foreclosures than under any President in modern history.

In the last 10 days, I met a father who was terrified that this would be the last night his family would sleep in the only home his son has ever known. I’ve met seniors who thought these would be their best years and now live day to day worried about making ends meet. I’ve met Hispanic entrepreneurs who thought they had achieved the American

Dream and are now seeing it disappear.

In his State of the Union Address, the president actually said, “Let’s remember how we got here.” Don’t worry, Mr. President, we remember

exactly how we got here! You won the election!

Leadership is about taking responsibility, not making excuses. In another era of American crisis, Thomas Paine is reported to have said, “Lead, follow, or get out of the way.” Mr. President, you were elected to lead, you chose to follow, and now it’s time for you to get out of

the way!

I stand ready to lead this Party and our nation. As a man who has spent his life outside Washington, I know what it is like to start a business. I know how extraordinarily difficult it is to build something from nothing. I know how government kills jobs and, yes, how

it can help.

My leadership helped build businesses from scratch. My leadership helped save the Olympics from scandal and give our athletes the chance to make us all proud. My leadership cut taxes 19 times and cast over 800 vetoes. We balanced every budget, and we kept our schools first among 50 states. My leadership will end the Obama era and begin a

new era of American prosperity!

This campaign is about more than replacing a president. It is about saving the soul of America. President Obama and I have two 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 it. I will not just freeze government’s share of the total economy, I will reduce it. And, without raising taxes, I

will finally balance the budget.

President Obama’s view of capitalism is to send your money to his friends’ companies. My vision for free enterprise is to return

entrepreneurship to the genius and creativity of the American people.

On one of the most personal matters of our lives, our health care, President Obama would turn decision making over to government

bureaucrats. He forced through Obamacare; I will repeal it.

Like his colleagues in the faculty lounge who think they know better, President Obama demonizes and denigrates almost every sector of our economy. I will make America the most attractive place in the world for entrepreneurs, for innovators, and for job creators. And unlike

the other people running for President, I know how to do that.

President Obama orders religious organizations to violate their conscience; I will defend religious liberty and overturn regulations

that trample on our first freedom.

President Obama believes America’s role as leader in the world is a thing of the past. He is intent on shrinking our military capacity at a time when the world faces rising threats. I will insist on a

military so powerful no one would ever think of challenging it.

President Obama has adopted a strategy of appeasement and apology. I

will stand with our friends and speak out for those seeking freedom.

President Obama wants to “fundamentally transform” America. We want to restore America to the founding principles that made this country


Our plans protect freedom and opportunity, and our blueprint is the

Constitution of the United States.

Together, we will build an America where “hope” is a new job with a

paycheck, not a faded word on an old bumper sticker.

The path I lay out is not one paved with ever increasing government checks and cradle-to-grave assurances that government will always be the solution. If this election is a bidding war for who can promise more benefits, then I’m not your president. You have that president


But if you want to make this election about restoring American

greatness, then I hope you will join us.

If you believe the disappointments of the last few years are a detour,

not our destiny, then I am asking for your vote.

I’m asking each of you to remember how special it is to be an American.

I want you to remember what it was like to be hopeful and excited

about the future, not to dread each new headline.

I want you to remember when you spent more time dreaming about where to send your kids to college than wondering how to make it to the next


I want you to remember when you weren’t afraid to look at your

retirement savings or the price at the pump.

I want you to remember when our White House reflected the best of who

we are, not the worst of what Europe has become.

That America is still out there. We still believe in that America.

We still believe in the America that is a land of opportunity and a beacon of freedom. We believe in the America that challenges each of

us to be better and bigger than ourselves.

This election, let’s fight for the America we love. We believe in America.

Thank you. And God bless America.

- Jon Ward

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Ron Paul spoke to supporters at a gathering just outside of Las Vegas after his fourth-place finish in the Florida GOP primary.

Paul received boos from the crowd when he said he called and congratulated Romney for his Florida win. The Texas congressman assured his supporters that while he was cordial to his rival, he would take him on "through the caucus states."

"Tonight I saw a statistic we're in third place when it comes to delegates, and that's what really counts," Paul said. "We're only getting started."

"If you have an irate... minority, you do very well in the caucus states," Paul said, reinforcing his delegate-focused campaign strategy. (That strategy is actually rooted in Obama's 2008 campaign, as HuffPost's Sam Stein pointed out several weeks ago.)

-- Paige Lavender

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MIAMI -- If you listened carefully to Newt Gingrich’s “concession” speech tonight, you heard the first strains of what could be an independent, third-party run for the White House if he doesn’t get the Republican nomination.

He vowed that he would not henceforth run a “Republican campaign but a People’s campaign” –- raising the specter, at least rhetorically, that his vision of his role in American history is too large and personal to be contained by a mere political party.

The former House speaker gave his fans a detailed –- very detailed -– vision of what he would do in the first hours and minutes of his presidency. It was as if all the grubby business of running for president were secondary to his imaginative thoughts about how he would run the world starting on Jan. 20, 2013.

He depicted his march to power as a matter of a personal, direct relationship between him and the voters.

“If I become your president, I pledge to you my life, my fortune and my sacred honor.”

His vaulting ambition knows no bounds; and so, perhaps, does his plan for how he is going to get from here to there in the GOP nomination race.

-- Howard Fineman

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@ JoNBCNews : Newt just pledged his "life" and "sacred honor" to American people at the end of a long speech. No mention of Romney.

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HuffPost has compiled a list of winners and losers from the Florida primary.

Click here to view a slideshow and make your pick for the biggest in each category.

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HuffPost reports:

Ron Paul and Rick Santorum are in Vegas.

While Mitt Romney was quickly announced the victor in the Florida primary at 8 p.m., the two GOP presidential contenders are hosting election night parties in the Silver State ahead of Saturday's caucuses.

Paul is holding a "Florida Election Night Party" at a casino in Henderson, Nevada just outside Las Vegas. Santorum is hosting a party at his campaign's headquarters in Las Vegas.

Click here to read more.

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In an email sent to supporters on Tuesday evening, Rick Santorum's campaign continued its criticism of rival Newt Gingrich, saying the former House speaker is "no conservative."

The message also highlighted Santorum's new television ad, which began airing in Colorado and Nevada on Tuesday.

Read the full message:

Newt Gingrich has continued to drop in the polls because conservatives have looked at his record and realized he’s no conservative.

You are one of the first to see this new ad that exposes Newt Gingrich’s record. With your immediate contribution of , , 0 or more, we can get this on TV around the country and continue to show that there is only one true conservative in the race that can stop moderate Mitt Romney and liberal Barack Obama -- and that’s Rick Santorum. It is time for conservatives and Tea Party supporters to unite and support Rick Santorum, the only candidate that shares their values and convictions.

I hope you will watch the ad, donate and ask your friends to as well. It is critical we get this out as far and wide as possible, so people understand how outside mainstream Newt Gingrich is. With your help and immediate contribution, we can get this ad on television in MN, CO, MO, and NV — key states with primaries and caucuses in the coming days.

-- Mollie Reilly

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Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who represents Florida's 20th congressional district, Tuesday criticized Florida GOP primary winner Mitt Romeny for his negative campaigning:

In a statement Tuesday evening, Schultz said:

"Mitt Romney’s victory tonight in the Florida GOP primary comes as no surprise -– Romney and his Super PAC outspent his nearest opponent by running 13,000 ads to Newt Gingrich's 200, carpet- bombing the airwaves with negative ads. In fact, Romney’s campaign has already spent more on negative ads than John McCain did during his entire presidential run.

"Tonight, Romney was successful in buying his way to victory -– but with every passing Republican contest, he becomes weaker with key general election swing and independent voters should he make it that far. That’s because Mitt Romney has made it clear he will say anything, take any position on any given day and before any given audience and will distort any fact about his or his opponents' record to win.

"But voters are paying more attention than Mitt Romney gives them credit for. They know he has declared support for both an extreme Tea Party agenda that would gut Social Security and Medicare and a budget plan that would end Medicare as we know it and shifts costs onto the backs of America’s seniors. They also know Romney has doubled down on his incredibly out-of-touch positions of letting foreclosures hit the bottom and expanding tax breaks to the wealthiest few at the expense of the middle class. And despite his double-speak in Florida, Mitt Romney has done nothing to dissuade voters from the notion that he is the most anti-immigrant significant major party candidate for president in generations.

"The reason Mitt Romney's negatives have soared with independent voters nationally and in key states, even as he has won one contest on his home field and bought his way to victory in another, is because the more voters learn about his extreme and out of touch positions the less they like him and the less they trust him to lead."

-- Mollie Reilly

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@ howardfineman : Newt will now head "The People's Campaign." He is going rogue. The GOP is too small for his vision.

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Newt Gingrich -- speaking behind a podium adorned with a sign that said "46 STATES TO GO" -- addressed supporters after his second-place finish in the Florida GOP primary.

Gingrich addressed the "46 states" signs in his speech, saying he printed them up for "the elite media."

"I want to assure them tonight... we are going to be in Tampa as the nominee in August," Gingrich said.

"You might ask, 'how might that be true?'" Gingrich said. "We are going to contest every place and we are going to win... We're going to have people power defeat money power in the next six months."

Gingrich also addressed his Florida loss to Mitt Romney, calling it "something very important."

"I think Florida did something very important coming on top of South Carolina," he said. "It is now clear that this will be a two-person race between the Conservative Leader Newt Gingrich and the Massachusetts Moderate."

Gingrich said that those who are "comfortable with the way America's decaying" could vote for someone else.

-- Paige Lavender

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Appearing on Fox News, Sarah Palin continued to advocate that Republican primary voters back Newt Gingrich in future contests -- strictly out of desire to see the campaign continue.

"As it stands, obviously it is Romney and Newt who are closest to being the front-running candidates," said Palin. "I would continue to vote for whomever it is to allow the process [to continue] and at this point it looks like it still is Newt. You have got to try and continue to even the playing field with your vote."

Palin has taken this same approach in South Carolina and Florida and it truly is a Herculean effort in covering all the bases: a non-endorsement endorsement for Gingrich that leaves plausible deniability with the Romney campaign.

In her Fox interview on Tuesday, she trumpeted the Gingrich campaign line -– dismissing the Florida results as the byproduct of Romney's prodigious campaign war chest.

"I think with million purchasing ads and some respects some false narrative it was very, very difficult for Newt Gingrich and the other candidates to counter just that bombardment of advertisements and the typical campaigning that seems to be going on in this primary," she said. "When a bell is rung it is really tough to un-ring that bell no matter how many surrogates that you have out there speaking for you."

-- Sam Stein

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In an interview prior to his primary night remarks, Rick Santorum criticized rival Newt Gingrich, stating that the former House speaker "had his chance" and "couldn't deliver" results.

TPM reports:

Dana Bash asked Santorum why he had left Florida.

"Because we realized in a winner-take-all race like Florida, where millions of dollars were going to be spent, we were not in a position to compete on a financial basis at this point," said Santorum. “We had a great financial -- fundraising month. We raised almost four-and-a-half million in the month of January, and our fundraising numbers are incredibly strong today.

"People are starting to realize now, and they’re seeing the results here in Florida, that you know Newt Gingrich had his chance, had his shot. He had a big boost and a win out of South Carolina -- and couldn’t hold it, couldn’t deliver in Florida. I think they’re gonna be looking for a different conservative as an alternative to Mitt Romney now."

-- Mollie Reilly

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@ howardfineman : Sarah Palin says she's for Newt in Nevada. She isn't endorsing him, just supporting him state-to-state

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HuffPost's Howard Fineman reports:

The nastiest campaign is about to get nastier -- and will stay that way all the way to November. The Democrats are planning to play the game the same way the Republicans have been playing it: on character more than issues.

Click here to read more.

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@ howardfineman : Santorum has .1. million cash on hand to make it to...the end of February, maybe. He has a rationale: neither Mitt or Newt can cut it.

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Rick Santorum spoke to voters in Las Vegas after Mitt Romney was projected the winner of the Florida primary. He congratulated Romney for his "resounding victory" before turning to more personal matters.

Santorum started his speech by thanking his supporters for the "outpouring of support from folks, frankly, on both sides of the aisle" his family received after his daughter Bella was hospitalized just days ago.

"It was a very trying time," Santorum said.

Santorum touched on the upcoming primary in Nevada, where he said "we're going to have a little different result than what we saw in Florida."

Santorum said it is important to focus on how to defeat Obama, and noted "we're not going to do that by mudslinging."

"[Voters] want to know what you're plans are and how you're going to contrast yourself with President Obama," Santorum said, noting he'd give a speech on "Romneycare and Obamacare" tomorrow.

"We can't allow our nominee to be the issue in the campaign," Santorum said.

-- Paige Lavender

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