Mitt Romney won the Florida primary. Big surprise there, huh? It’s also surprising — not — to hear that he walloped second-place finisher Newt Gingrich by between 15 and 17 points, according to preliminary results.
Though double digits were always to be expected, it must be a good ego boost for Romney after losing to Gingrich in South Carolina. But big win or not, Romney can’t rest on his laurels, because he still faces the same hurdles he has for months.
Romney won among predictable populations. Women, always fans of the Mitt, overwhelming preferred him to thrice-married Gingrich — Romney bested Gingrich by about 20 points, according to NBC News — and less conservative voters also tipped the scale in the former Massachusetts governor’s favor. NBC says 62% of self-described moderates preferred Romney. “Somewhat conservative” citizens also leaned toward Romney 51-32. CBS News‘ count puts Romney’s moderate win at about a whopping 59 over Gingrich’s measly 20%; “somewhat conservatives” were the same as NBC’s reading.
Romney’s business background certainly helped with those who ranked the economy as their number one concern. And despite Gingrich’s attempts to scare seniors, particularly Jewish seniors, about Romney cutting kosher food from medicare menus while governor, seniors went for Romney about 50% over 35%, says Fox News. And CBS notes that Romney won seniors, those 65 or older, by 17 points, 51-34. All news outlets have found that a majority of voters who weighed electability — odds of beating President Obama — preferred Romney.
Yes, Latinos too went to Romney — 53-30, Romney, CBS reports — though this number isn’t necessarily as straight forward as the other breakdowns. First, Florida’s Latino population is primarily Cuban, a typically more conservative electorate than many other Latino populations across the nation, which more often than not vote Democrat. If he spins the numbers hard enough, though, Romney could use this win to help woo other Latino voters in Nevada, which holds its caucus next week, and beyond.
Gingrich took home top honors among his more loyal populations, though his margin is not as wide as he would have liked. While voters who said they were very conservative or identified with the Tea Party heavily favored Gingrich, Time, NBC and the AP all report, evangelicals, always wary of Mormon Romney, seemed to be more evenly split: NBC News estimates Gingrich won that group only three points, 39%-36%; Fox had similarly close numbers — 40% for Gingrich and 36% for Romney. It’s the “very conservative voters” who pose the biggest challenge, again, for Romney: NBC projects Gingrich winning there 43-29; CBS reported the same numbers. Meanwhile, NBC found that 41% don’t believe Romney is conservative enough.
This is a troublesome and familiar trend for Romney, and these figures are undoubtedly nagging on the candidate’s mind, another reminder that he has a steep climb before the August nominating contest in Tampa.
Romney knows these limitations exist, and he’s definitely trying to turn them to his advantage. “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!” he said during his victory speech this evening.
He’d better hope so, because if most likely GOP candidate Romney can’t bridge the evident divides between him and the most traditionally Republican populations, he and the party both will be in serious trouble heading into November.