WASHINGTON, Feb. 1- Mitt Romney won the GOP Florida primary Tuesday night, securing the lead in the race for the Republican presidential nomination with the crucial swing state. With 46 percent of Florida votes, Romney defeated former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, the winter of South Carolina’s primary. Gingrich gained 32 percent of last night’s votes in Florida.
During his victory speech, the former Massachusetts governor reserved his rhetoric toward defeating President Obama if he should win the GOP nomination.
"I stand ready to lead this party and to lead our nation," Romney said. "My leadership will end the Obama era and begin a new era of American prosperity."
Florida is the largest state the nominees have competed in so far, with 50 delegates. Romney now has 87 delegates nationally, compared with 26 for Gingrich, 14 for Santorum and four for Paul. It takes 1,144 delegates to clinch the Republican nomination.
Santorum and Paul skipped Florida to begin campaigning in western states, and received a small percent of the votes, with Santorum in third and Paul coming up last. Gingrich performed well in polls leading up to the Florida primary, but the results in the large state handed him a significant setback. During his comments after last night’s votes, Gingrich supporters supported the former Speaker of the House with “46 more to go” signs in tow to signal that a long race remains.
“It is now clear that this will be a two person race between the conservative leader, Newt Gingrich, and the Massachusetts moderate,” said Gingrich.
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