Mitt Romney with 14-point lead over Newt Gingrich
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) - Looking for a convincing win, a confident Mitt Romney said Monday the Florida primary is breaking his way and urged voters to send Newt Gingrich "to the moon."Gingrich claimed he's gaining ground and will stay in the race until summer.
"You can sense that it's coming our way," Romney told reporters.
The former Massachusetts governor was already looking ahead, making plans to stop in Minnesota on his way to Nevada on Wednesday, the day after Florida votes.
A day before the voting, Romney ridiculed Gingrich, his chief rival here: "Send him to the moon," Romney said at a rally early Monday, repeating an audience member's comment and using it to poke fun at Gingrich's claim to build a moon colony as president. Romney also scoffed at "the idea of the moon as the 51st state" as "not one that's come to my mind."
Gingrich countered that Romney is "pretending he's somebody he's not" and linked Romney to Obama, calling them the "twins of the establishment."
A new poll taken among likely Florida Republican voters shows Romney heading into tomorrow's presidential preference primary in the Sunshine State with a 14-point lead over Gingrich.
The Quinnipiac University Polling Institute survey conducted Friday through Sunday among 539 likely GOP voters in Florida had Romney favored by 43 percent of the respondents compared to 29 percent who preferred Gingrich.
The poll, which has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.2 percentage points, showed U.S. Rep. Ron Paul and former Pennsylvania U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum each at 11 percent.
Romney also was favored by a 40-31 margin over Gingrich among self-described conservatives. Romney built on a lead of 9 percentage points over Gingrich in a Quinnipiac poll released on Friday.
Gingrich's allies, meanwhile, urged Rick Santorum to get out of the race to clear the way for conservatives to consolidate support behind the former House speaker.
In the final hours before Tuesday's critical primary, Romney sustained his barrage against Gingrich. He said he believes he bounced back from a tough South Carolina loss by aggressively answering Gingrich's attacks and hitting him for his ties to the government-backed, mortgage giant Freddie Mac.
Gingrich threatened a long slog.
"I think he's going to find this a long campaign," Gingrich said.
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