Republican hopeful Mitt Romney has opened up a 20-point lead in the final days leading up to the Republican primary in Florida, according to a Suffolk University/7NEWS (WSVN-Miami) poll of likely Republican primary voters in Florida.
Romney led Newt Gingrich 47 percent to 27 percent, while Rick Santorum got 12 percent and Ron Paul finished fourth with 9 percent. Five percent were undecided.
“It is almost certain that Mitt Romney will top his 39 percent showing in New Hampshire,” said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center in Boston. “This poll also tells us that Romney could reverse and exceed Newt Gingrich’s percentage and margin in South Carolina – and do it in Gingrich’s backyard.”
Romney led Gingrich 55 percent to 24 percent among those voters who indicated that they had already voted, and he led 56 percent to 23 percent among Hispanic voters.
"If Mitt Romney hits a historic benchmark in this election, he has Hispanic voters to thank,” said Paleologos.
Romney was seen as the candidate who can fix the economy by 50 percent of respondents, compared to 23 percent who expressed confidence that Gingrich could fulfill that role.
Voters disagreed with Gingrich’s claim that Mitt Romney was carpet bombing him with negative TV ads; 37 percent of likely Republican voters said Gingrich ran the most negative campaign, while 31 percent said Romney.
Most loyal Republican voters expressed some skepticism about a GOP win in November. Regardless of who they personally support in the primary, 45 percent said they believe Romney will be the next president, while 21 percent said President Barack Obama and 15 percent predicted a Gingrich win.
In a Suffolk University/7NEWS (WSVN-Miami) survey of general election voters fielded before Obama’s state of the union address, Romney led Obama in Florida by 5 points, 47 percent to 42 percent.
A majority of likely Republican primary voters (55 percent) are satisfied with the field of candidates and don’t want another candidate to jump in at the point. Thirty-nine percent were dissatisfied, and 54 percent said they did not want to see a new candidate enter the presidential race.
Three separate Florida Republican presidential primary bellwether counties also indicate a Romney romp. In both Martin and Volusia counties, Romney topped Gingrich 52 percent to 24 percent, and in Sarasota County, Romney bested Gingrich 45 percent to 21 percent.
“When you see numbers like these, Romney is actually flirting with a fifty percent threshold, which would be devastating to his opponents given how difficult it is to get to that threshold in a multi-candidate field,” said Paleologos.
There are nine candidates listed on the Florida ballot.
In the 2008 Republican Primary Martin, Sarasota and Volusia counties reflected the state’s 1-2-3 order of finish and were within 4 points of the percentage of the vote taken by John McCain, Romney and Rudy Giuliani. The same held true for candidates Bob Dole, Steve Forbes and Patrick Buchanan in 1996, the last year that Florida Republicans cast a GOP presidential primary ballot with a Democratic president in office.
Bellwethers are designed to predict outcomes – not margins. Over the past three election cycles, bellwethers have correctly predicted outcomes in more than 90 percent of trials. In the instances where three out of three bellwethers have agreed on the same candidate winning, bellwethers have been 100 percent accurate.
In January 2008 Suffolk University’s statewide poll forecast that John McCain would win Florida’s Republican presidential primary by 3 points; McCain won by 5 points. In addition, the 2008 bellwether of Florida’s Hillsborough County predicted a 7-point win for McCain.
The statewide survey of 500 likely Florida Republican primary voters was conducted Jan. 28-29, 2012, using live telephone interviews of landline and cell phone users. The margin of error is +/-4.4 percent. The GOP survey of bellwethers Martin, Sarasota and Volusia counties (300 likely respondents each) was conducted Jan. 28-29 and carries a margin of error of +/-5.65 percent. Marginals and full cross-tabulation data will be posted at noon on Monday, Jan. 30, 2012, on the Suffolk University Political Research Center Web site. For more information, contact David Paleologos at 781-290-9310.