Florida Voters Flip to Gingrich after SC Win

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The majority of Republican voters in Florida are likely to support former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, according to a new Rasmussen poll.

Less than two weeks ago, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney held a 22-point lead among potential GOP voters in the state.

Now, 41 percent of those surveyed support Gingrich, while 32 percent say they'll vote for Romney, and 11 percent for former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.

Texas Rep. Ron Paul placed last with only 8 percent of potential voter support. Nine percent remained undecided.

A Tale of Three States

Three Republican primaries in three different states have produced three different winners in the race for the party's nominee for president.

Gingrich's campaign was declared dead twice, but he kicks off the Florida primary process with a major boost after winning South Carolina.

South Carolina's Republican ballot box proved that a great deal can change in just one week.

"I voted for Newt and I honestly didn't make the decision until recently. I went to the debates and I think that probably of all the candidates, he can probably get something done," Ben Levitt, a South Carolina Republican, said.

Click play to watch Jennifer Wishon's report followed by analysis from CBN News Chief Political Correspondent David Brody.

"I flipped a coin and I voted for Newt," Carol Lineille, another South Carolina Republican, said outside her precinct.

It's precisely the boost Gingrich wanted.

"If Romney has been stopped in South Carolina and if a conservative has emerged, the Florida primary is wide open," he said.

Regent University School of Government professor Paul Bonicelli talks about the dynamics of the GOP race heading into Florida.

Romney's Slide

If conservative voters unite around him, Gingrich said there's no way his rival Romney can win the Republican nomination.

"The biggest thing I take from the campaign in South Carolina is that it is very humbling and very sobering to have so many people who so deeply want their country to get back on the right track," Gringrich said following his win Saturday night.

Only a week before the primary, Romney led Gingrich by double digits in the polls.

"We're now three contests into a long primary season," Romney said.

Santorum, who came in third, told his South Carolina supporters the race is still wide open.

"Look, we don't have to win South Carolina. We have to do well and we have to finish strongly," he said.

Facing Florida

In Florida, the candidates are facing a new set of issues. Like South Carolina, unemployment is high in Florida, but its population is much more diverse and voters are looking for the candidate who speaks their language.

"You have a charismatic Catholic. You have an evangelical. It's a dynamic population that has shifted so much even in the last four years," Republican strategist Leslie Sanchez, CEO of Impacto Group, said.

"Florida is where not only you spend time, but you have to spend money, and the reality is Gov. Romney has the resources to fight aggressively in Florida," Jay Sekulow, chief council of the American Center for Law and Justice, said.

Romney has competed in Florida before and some say he learned from his mistakes in 2008.

"Gov. Romney has set up a firewall in Florida. Early endorsements from the top Hispanic elected officials, early Spanish language advertising," Sanchez noted.

Floridians have been casting early ballots since Saturday.

"By election day in Florida, half the ballots will have already been cast," Eric Fehrnstrom, an advisor to the Romney campaign, said.

But as South Carolina showed the nation and the candidates, anything can happen in this race.

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CBN News
Jennifer Wishon

Jennifer Wishon

CBN News White House Correspondent

Jennifer Wishon is the White House correspondent for CBN News based in the network’s Washington, D.C. Bureau.  Before taking over the White House beat, Jennifer covered Capitol Hill and other national news, from the economy to the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Follow Jennifer on Twitter @JenniferWishon and "like" her at Facebook.com/JennWishon.