Romney Surges in Fla., Gingrich Plays Catch Up

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TAMPA, Fla. -- Florida Republicans head to the polls Tuesday as the state's presidential primary takes a crucial turn.

The forecast is sunny for Mitt Romney, with polls showing him pulling ahead of Newt Gingrich, a victory firmly in his grasp.

"With a turnout like this, I'm beginning to feel we might win tomorrow," Romney told a crowd of several hundred at a stop in Dunedin, Fla., on Monday.

Nevertheless, the race appears to be far from over.

Seniors and Hispanics

"The Villages" retirement community in Central Florida is filled with roughly 90,000 seniors, most of them Republican. About 80 percent of them actually vote.

So far, in some of the early voting states, Romney has done well with senior voters and he's hoping to capitalize in Florida, too.
 
"We will protect American's seniors and young people to keep them well and safe, and I will be sure to protect Medicare and Social Security," Romney declared.

The other key to this equation is Romney doing better with the Hispanics in southern Florida.

"Last time, I think Mitt Romney essentially lost Florida because he lost Hispanic votes," Tampa Bay Times Political Editor Adam Smith said. "He lost Miami-Dade in such big numbers."
 
The Hispanic community has been devastated by the home foreclosure crisis. Aware of that grim reality, Romney has run a glut of ads hitting Gingrich hard for his past involvement with mortgage giant Freddie Mac.

Gringrich Plays Catch Up

For his part, Gingrich is trying to stop a nosedive in his poll numbers caused by a couple of lackluster debate performances and the Romney ad machine.
 
"The division is real clear. You can't have a debate between 'Obamacare' and 'Romneycare' because they're too close together," Gingrich said. "You can have a debate between a Reagan conservative and 'Obamacare' because we're that far apart."
 
Gingrich is undeterred, claiming he's in the race to the end no matter what happens in Florida. The former House speaker said he believes Romney won't be able to win enough delegates to secure the nomination before the convention.

Meanwhile, many are still praying that a candidate will emerge from the field who will steer the country in the right direction.

"As Christians we all need to be in diligent prayer every single day that God would raise up that right person for this time for our nation," Janet Cordova Tampa, with Concerned Women for America, said.
 
Americans may not know who that right Republican is until the next time the GOP comes back to Florida for its national convention. 

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