PPP's tracking of the Florida Republican primary wraps up with Mitt Romney at 39%, Newt Gingrich at 31%, Rick Santorum at 15%, and Ron Paul at 11%. Our three days of tracking found very little movement in the race: Romney was at 39-40% every day, Gingrich was at 31-32% every day, Santorum was at 14-15% every day, and Paul was at 9-11% every day.
The lack of movement in the final 72 hours of the campaign is a far cry from the dramatic shifts Florida Republicans made in their preferences over the last four months. In late September we found Mitt Romney ahead of Newt Gingrich by 20 points in the state. By late November, as he surged nationally, Gingrich had taken a 30 point led over Romney. But then our first poll in early January, after poor performances by Gingrich in Iowa and New Hampshire, found Romney back on top by 15 points. Riding a (short lived) wave of momentum off his South Carolina victory, Gingrich led our Florida poll last week by 5 points. By the end of the week the race had swung back to Romney and over the last three days his lead has been steady in the 7-8 point range.
One thing Romney did a great job of was getting his voters out early. With the third of the electorate who have already cast their ballots he leads 45-32. That means Gingrich would have to win election day voters by somewhere in the 6-8 point range to pull off the Florida upset, but we find that Romney still has a 36-30 advantage with those are waiting to vote tomorrow.
Romney will win in Florida tomorrow because he's winning his core groups of support by wide margins, while holding Gingrich to single digit advantages with his key constituencies. Romney is winning moderates by 39 (53-14), seniors by 12 (46-32), and women by 12 (42-30). Meanwhile Gingrich is only up 8 with Tea Partiers (39-31) and 6 with Evangelicals (38-32), groups he won by huge margins in South Carolina.
The hubbub over Romney's tax returns early last week may have enhanced his chances in the state. The truth is that being wealthy and successful is not a liability with Republican voters- it's a selling point. We find that 66% of primary voters have a favorable opinion of 'rich people' to only 8% with a negative opinion of them. All the awareness of how rich Romney is may have sent Florida Republicans a message that Romney is someone who knows what he's doing.
Gingrich erred with his proposal last week for a 'moon colony.' Only 21% of voters support his idea while 53% are opposed and more importantly it made Gingrich look like a flake. At the beginning of last week Gingrich and Romney were seen as equally electable against Barack Obama. Now 49% see Romney as the party's strongest candidate in the fall to 25% for Gingrich.
At the end of the day in Florida we're right back where we started. Romney was always seen as a solid favorite in the state and for all the twists and turns over the last six months it looks like he'll win a good sized victory just as was expected all along.
Full results here