According to the latest Rasmussen survey released on Thursday, Mitt Romney seems to be unstoppable in the Sunshine State:
Coming off his decisive win in Tuesday’s New Hampshire Primary, Romney earns 41% support with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich a distant second at 19%. A new telephone survey of Likely Florida Republican Primary Voters finds former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum running third with 15% of the vote.
Texas Congressman Ron Paul and former Utah Governor Jon Hunstman are next with nine percent (9%) and five percent (5%) support respectively. The two men finished second and third in New Hampshire where independents are allowed to vote in the primary. The Florida primary is open to Republican voters only. Texas Governor Rick Perry runs dead last among primary voters in the Sunshine State with two percent (2%) support. One percent (1%) prefers some other candidate in the race, and eight percent (8%) are undecided. (To see survey question wording, click here.)
With Romney’s opponents banking on a strong showing in the more conservative January 21 South Carolina Primary, things still remain fluid in the Florida race despite the former Massachusetts governor’s comfortable lead. Fifty-one percent (51%) of Likely Florida Primary Voters are already certain of how they will vote, but 41% say they still could change their minds. Eight percent (8%) have no preference yet.
As mentioned above, overlooking the plain fact that Mitt Romney is leading his closest Republican rival by 22 percentage points, 41% of likely Florida voters are still open to changing their minds. This suggests, in other words, that if Rick Santorum or Newt Gingrich can exceed all expectations in South Carolina – and gain some momentum – a candidate could emerge as the non-Romney alternative just in time for the Florida primary.
On the other hand, 79% of likely GOP primary voters in the Sunshine State say Mitt Romney will win the Republican nomination. Moreover, at least 75% view him favorably and believe he is the strongest (and perhaps only) candidate capable of defeating Barack Obama in November. Electability, it seems, is an important – and possibly the most important – concern affecting the way Republicans in Florida will vote on January 31.
And yet, though it seems somewhat paradoxical, the only GOP hopeful notoriously known for flip-flopping on social issues is resonating with conservatives. Among tea partiers, for example, the former Massachusetts governor holds a 31% to 27% lead over Newt Gingrich. Perhaps more importantly, among Evangelical Christians, he’s polling 7 percentage points higher than Rick Santorum. In short, as we’ve seen in New Hampshire and now Florida, Mitt Romney – I think – is starting to garner broad support from various constituencies within the Republican Party.
Parting thought: Is it a foregone conclusion that Mitt Romney will be the 2012 Republican nominee? Or, is it still possible for Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, or some other candidate to clinch the nomination?