Poll: Romney up 15 on Gingrich in Florida

BONITA SPRINGS, Fla. — Mitt Romney has expanded his lead over Newt Gingrich in Florida and now has a 15-point margin over the former House Speaker, according to a new poll released Sunday.

Romney leads Gingrich 42-27 among likely Republican voters in the NBC News/Marist poll, with Rick Santorum coming in third with 16 percent. Ron Paul comes in last with 11 percent.

The poll suggests Romney could walk away with the vote in Tuesday's primary in Florida, just one week after polls showed Gingrich in the lead and political observers were predicting a nail-biting finish.

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A wide-margin win for Romney in Florida could put him in a position to lock up the Republican presidential nomination and ramp up the pressure on his rivals to drop out. The primary calendar in the weeks after Florida are favorable for Romney, and another early-state victory would bring even more funds into his already deep-pocketed campaign.

Only 4 percent of voters said they were undecided, signaling that most have already made up their minds in a state that has been inundated with millions of dollars in television ads for and against the candidates in the days since South Carolina's Jan. 21 primary.

Santorum's 16 percent also reflects a small but noticeable bump of about 5 points for the former Pennsylvania senator, who hasn't had the money to flood Florida's airwaves with the same gusto as Romney and Gingrich.


Romney demonstrated dominance across a wide swath of voter groups, including those who identify as liberal, moderate or conservative, non-Tea Party voters and women — he leads 47-26 with female voters over Gingrich. But Gingrich leads with Tea Party supporters and those who identify as "very conservative."

“Mitt Romney has shored up support among his key backers while cutting his loses among Tea Party voters,” said Dr. Lee M. Miringoff, who conducted the poll for Marist.

The poll of 682 likely Republican primary voters in Florida was conducted Jan. 25-27 and had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.8 percentage points.

The Marist poll confirmed trends that other recent polls in Florida have suggested. A Miami Herald/El Nuevo Herald/Tampa Bay Times poll released Saturday night found Romney besting Gingrich by 11 points, and winning Hispanic and female voters by even wider margins.

- Meghashyam Mali contributed.