Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney has opened a double-digit lead in Florida as the perception grows among Republican primary voters that he is the strongest general election candidate against President Obama. The state's GOP Primary is on Tuesday.
The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Florida Republican Primary Voters, conducted Saturday, shows Romney up by 16 points with 44% support. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is a distant second at 28%.
These figures reflect a significant turnaround over the past week. Last Sunday, just after his big win in the South Carolina Primary, Gingrich led Romney by nine. By the middle of this past week, Romney was back in control with an eight-point advantage. Despite all the ups and downs, the results today are very similar to polling results found in Florida three weeks ago, coming off Romney’s decisive victory in the New Hampshire Primary.
Former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum earns 12% support, while Texas Congressman Ron Paul picks up 10%. One percent (1%) prefer some other candidate, and five percent (5%) are undecided.
Republican voters are looking first and foremost for a candidate who can beat Obama. Earlier in the week, when Gingrich was leading in Florida, the Sunshine State's primary voters were evenly divided as to whether Romney or Gingrich would be the stronger general election candidate. By mid-week, as Romney regained the lead, he had a 15-point advantage over Gingrich on this question. Today, 53% believe that Romney is the strongest candidate against the president, and only 29% think Gingrich fits that role.