Mitt Romney scored a decisive win in Tuesday night's Florida primary, handily beating Newt Gingrich, his closest competitor, by 14 points. Romney picked up 50 delegates in the winner-take-all race, but that's just a small percentage of the 1,144 delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The insurgent Newt Gingrich, whose campaign was lifted by a solid win in South Carolina, pledged to remain in the race.
"We are going to contest every place, and we will win," Gingrich told supporters Tuesday night.
Rick Santorum placed third in Florida with 13 percent of the vote. Ron Paul came in fourth place with seven percent, an expected outcome for the Texas Congressman who spent little time and resources campaigning in the Sunshine state.
Florida presented the most realistic climate the GOP nominee can expect in the general election. The state is one of the most politically and ethnically diverse, and many moderates hold sway in the nation's most populous state.
Republican Mark McKinnon, a Republican strategist who has advised George W. Bush and John McCain, says last night's win makes Romney the probable nominee.
"Romney has regained the momentum," McKinnon tells Henry Blodget in the attached video. "[His win] was a big deal...however it's been a real yo-yo primary." There are "likely to be some dramatics left in this wild Republican primary."
Spending by the Republican candidates' Super PACs has been a major issue during this GOP presidential campaign. Attack ads by Gingrich's "Winning Our Future" PAC helped the former Speaker of the House defeat Romney in South Carolina. Now there's a lot of chatter that Romney's big win in Florida could be attributed to his barrage of TV and radio ads. An article in Wednesday's New York Times reports that nearly 60 corporations and individuals have given Romney's "Restore Our Future" Super PAC checks totaling $100,000 or more over the past few months. Moreover, Restore Our Future has raised about $30 million from 200 donors in just the second half of 2011, according to the Times. (For more on Super PACs watch 'Super PACS: It's a Bird! It's a Plan! It's -- Well, It's complicated!')
McKinnon says Romney may be riding high after Tuesday night's win, but there's still time for Gingrich to "rethink and recalibrate" his campaign. Romney still has a long way to go before he's crowned as the GOP nominee.
"He has to make clear he's not hostage to the Republican right," McKinnon says. He needs to win over the hearts of Hispanics and be progressive on important issues like immigration, he said. "Republicans have clearly not fallen in love with anyone yet."
The next stop for the candidates is Nevada, which holds its caucuses Feb. 4.