Florida primary: exit polls make good reading for Romney camp

With the voting stations preparing to close across much of Florida in the coming minutes, newly released exit polls are predicting a big advantage for former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, according to CBS News.

Traditionally exit poll results indicating which candidates were favored by the respondents are not released while voting is in progress.

However, CBS said two thirds of respondents said recent debates influenced their decision, good news for the Romney camp as it was their man who appeared to perform well in the previous two debates in Florida. (A similar result in South Carolina presaged a win by Newt Gingrich ten days ago).

Electability was also a major factor, a theme that has accompanied Romney on his campaign, which, while it may not inspire devotion among conservatives, can appear as the best choice to beat a common enemy: President Barack Obama. According to CBS, 45 percent of respondents said the most important quality in a candidate would be the ability to beat Obama.

According to The New York Times, voters who chose electability as their most important factor in a candidate chose Romney over Gingrich by 28 points in the Iowa caucuses on Jan 3.

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Fully 37 percent of respondents said Romney had run the most unfair campaign, according to CBS. Analysts have noted that tide of negativity in this year’s Florida primary (But 34 percent pointed to Gingrich as being the main culprit.) And nearly 40 percent said campaign ads were an important factor in their decision.

As in South Carolina, the economy was overwhelmingly the most important issue, cited by 62 percent of respondents. And in what CBS called “a potentially troubling sign” for Republicans, 39 percent said they were unhappy with their choices in this year’s Republican primaries.

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According to The Hill, former White House Press Secretry Ari Fleischer appeared on CNN this evening to denounce automated telephone calls in Florida in which the Gingrich camp accused Romney of having denied Kosher food to Jewish senior citizens in retirement homes.

"There's a reason calls like this are made at the very last hour, because it's really an attack that goes beyond bounds,” Fleischer was quoted as saying.

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