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Enthusiasm gap? Tuesday’s GOP primary turnout lags behind 2008

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012 by George Bennett

Many Republicans regard the 2008 election as a low point for GOP enthusiasm. But Florida Republicans were more amped about the state’s presidential primary four years ago than they were this year.

Not quite 1.7 million Republicans cast ballots in Tuesday’s Florida Republican presidential primary — about 276,000 fewer than in 2008. Turnout Tuesday was 41.1 percent — down from 51 percent four years ago, when Florida effectively handed John McCain the Republican nomination.

Evidence of an enthusiasm problem in the GOP?

“I don’t think we have an enthusiasm gap,” says Republican Party of Florida spokesman Brian Hughes.

“I would argue you had more competitive top candidates who were putting money into get-out-the-vote,” in 2008, Hughes said.

The 2008 GOP field included McCain, Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani and Mike Huckabee. Tuesday’s race was essentially a two-man contest between Romney and Newt Gingrich as Rick Santorum and Ron Paul spent little or no time or money in the state.

Also, the 2008 primary ballot included a statewide property tax-limitation question that helped drive turnout. There were no other statewide ballot questions or races on Tuesday’s ballot.

Less than 35% of registered GOP voters in county turnout for primary

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012 by Andrew Abramson

While a high Republican voter turnout was credited for the GOP’s dominance in the 2010 midterms, only 34.7 of registered Republican voters in Palm Beach County turned out for the 2012 primary.

In 2008, 44 percent of GOP voters went to the polls in an race that helped John McCain win the nomination.

In a low turnout, Mitt Romney easily won in Palm Beach County with about 54 percent of the vote. Newt Gingrich had about 28 percent, Rick Santorum 10 percent and Ron Paul around 7 percent.

Time will tell what the low turnout means, and whether GOP voters are unenthusiastic about the candidates or were simply willing to let others decide the nominee before backing that person in the general election.

Gingrich campaign reports shows he’s millions behind Romney

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012 by Jane Musgrave

CELEBRATION — A constant critic of his millionaire opponent’s wild spending, Newt Gingrich raised nearly $10 million in the last three months of last year but ended 2011 about $1.2 million in debt, according to a campaign finance report filed today.

The Associated Press said the report showed the GOP presidential candidate started the year with about $2 million in the bank.

A Gingrich spokesman said roughly half came from people who gave more than $250 while the other half was from those who gave $250 or less.

“We are a campaign of small dollar donations,” R.C. Hammond told reporters as the former House speaker wrapped up his election day campaigning. Hammond said about 200,000 small-dollar donations have been made to the campaign this year.

His campaign told the Associated Press that the campaign has raised about $5 million since Gingrich’s surprise victory in South Carolina earlier this month.

All candidates have to file their reports by midnight. Reports filed by Gingrich’s chief rival, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, weren’t available. As of Sept. 30, Romney had raised $32.6 million, compared to Gingrich’s $2.9 million.

Palm Beach Gardens likes Romney; voting signs moved at Dwyer High

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012 by Andrew Abramson

About 2/3 of voters polled coming out of Palm Beach Gardens precincts this afternoon between 3-5 p.m. said they voted for Mitt Romney. The poll was in no way scientific. Women seemed to support Romney and men were favoring Newt Gingrich, but women were dominating the mostly empty polls at mid afternoon.

Voting was going smoothly in Gardens, although a poll worker at Dwyer High complained that someone moved signs with arrows telling people where to vote.

Only two people of about 20 interviewed voted for candidates other that Gingrich and Romney.

Valerie Rueckert of Palm Beach Gardens voted for Rick Santorum.

“He’s a great man and the only one of the bunch with character,” Rueckert said. “It’s a wide-open race, and people like myself that are struggling in this economy are not swayed by lies going around in this campaign.”

Hunter Johnson of Gardens said he voted for Ron Paul because, “I believe in his statements about liberty and personal freedom. His views are more consistent with my mine.”

Many of the Romney voters said they felt he was the candidate who could have a chance against President Obama.


FOX’s Cavuto: ‘Sorry state’ for Florida primary losers

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012 by Dara Kam

Florida GOP leaders desire to elevate the Sunshine State’s prominence in selecting the presidential nominee has paid off, according to some political insiders including FOX Business Network personality Neil Cavuto.

“Bottom line, they fail at pitching it in the Sunshine State, it will be a sorry state for their campaigns in the end,”
Cavuto told postonpolitics.

Florida Republicans made a “good compromise” by sacrificing half their 100 convention delegates in today’s winner-takes-all election, Cavuto said.

More than states like New Hampshire and South Carolina that have already held contests, Florida represents a microcosm of the nation, Cavuto said in an e-mail.

“Despite all the criticism party wonks are getting for moving up the primary, I think they made a good compromise. If we’ve learned anything over the years it’s how crucial a state it remains and how diverse its populace is. How successful candidates are at wooing Hispanics, and young people, to say nothing of seniors, and young families increasingly drawn to your beautiful beaches and resorts and vacation destinations – it’s all a crucial litmus tests for candidates pitching a national message. Bottom line, they fail at pitching it in the Sunshine State, it will be a sorry state for their campaigns in the end,” he said.

Cavuto will be hosting a post-primary show tonight featuring Florida politicos Attorney General Pam Bondi – a Mitt Romney supporter- and U.S. Reps. John Mica and Connie Mack.

Some Wellington polls at a standstill this afternoon

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012 by Ana Valdes

Polls at Wellington City Hall were empty this afternoon, and a city official said only about 100 voters had come in all day.

One Wellington resident said she brought a book to kill time while she waited in line, but was able to vote in less than five minutes. No one was inside the precinct.

Nearby, at St. Peter’s United Methodist Church, two poll workers were chatting outside, while the precinct was empty.

Elections officials expect crowds to pick up after 5 p.m., when voters leave work. Polls close at 7 p.m.

Senate prez Haridopolos – Romney backer – ‘low-keying it’ on election night

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012 by Dara Kam

After helping secure the state’s national prominence in selecting the GOP presidential candidate by moving up the primary, Senate President Mike Haridopolos said he’ll be watching the election returns at home with his roommate, Senate budget chief JD Alexander, tonight.

“I’m low-keying it. I’ve been high-key enough in getting this early election,” Haridopolos, a Mitt Romney supporter, said during his weekly Q-and-A with reporters this afternoon. “Despite a lot of anger from some folks even in my own party…I think it clearly has come up aces for us.”

Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney and political groups supporting the candidates have spent about $25 million on campaign ads, Haridopolos said, and the early date has helped fire up Republican voters, more than 600,000 of whom had already cast their ballots before today’s election. Florida Republicans gave up half their delegates in the winner-take-all election by moving the date up and breaking national GOP rules.

“I’m looking forward to seeing the returns tonight, and I expect Mitt Romney to win,” Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, said.

All over in Florida but the counting for Gingrich; looks to Tea Party for national push

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012 by Jane Musgrave

Republican presidential candidate, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich meets with supporters during a visit to a polling place at Celebration Heritage Hall in Celebration, Fla., Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2012. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

CELEBRATION – The Florida campaign for Newt Gingrich is over. Now, it’s just a matter of waiting for the results.

After spending nearly an hour shaking hands and signing autographs with supporters who lined up outside a polling place in this Disney-created community near Orlando this afternoon, the GOP presidential hopeful climbed back aboard his “Rebuilding the America We Love” campaign bus and drove off. Next up: His election night party at the Rosen Centre Hotel in Orlando.

He didn’t address the media at any of the four stops he made today in Central Florida. When a scrum of reporters crowded around, he would sometimes say that he was “uniting conservatives” or mention the “dishonest” ads chief rival Mitt Romney has been running.

His press secretary said that regardless of what happens in Florida tonight, the former House speaker is committed to campaigning in every state. Tea Party voters will give him the edge over chief rival, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, said R.C. Hammond.

“We will compete in every contest the country has to offer,” Hammond said. “In a race where the media’s picked frontrunner hasn’t broken 50 percent that leaves a lot of math out there for the conservative side of the party to take up which is how we’ll stay competitive in the nomination, which is why it will last late into the spring because we’ll continue to bring in delegates, we’ll continue to bring in large amounts of support.

“At the end of the day,” he concluded, “as long as Tea Party voters continue to come our way, we’ll do very well.”

Despite busy morning and large lunch crowds, elections officials report slow afternoon at precincts

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012 by Ana Valdes

Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher visits the precinct at the West Jupiter Recreation Center Tuesday afternoon.

While larger crowds of voters filled Palm Beach County precincts this morning and at lunch, precincts are not that busy this afternoon, according to elections officials.

An election deputy at Precinct 1066, located at the West Jupiter Recreation Center, said only about 200 people had voted as of 1:15 p.m., despite the fact that this precinct has 1,166 registered Republicans, the third largest number in the county.

Susan Bucher, Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections, said she’s seen a ”steady clip of voters” visiting polls, and she expects polls to get busier after voters finish their workday.

“But we won’t really know until polls close,” she said outside the recreation center.

Before visiting precincts in Jupiter, Bucher stopped by Howard Park in West Palm Beach, where she told Palm Beach Post photographer Lannis Waters that ”things are pretty smooth. There’s a steady clip of voters.” Only 35 people had voted at Howard Park as of 1 p.m., Bucher said.

Bucher also visited St. Edward Church in Palm Beach, the busiest precinct so far, she said. As of 1 p.m., 272 people at voted at St. Edward, which has 1,200 registered Republicans, the second largest in the county.

Ron Paul supporter learns politics is a contact sport

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012 by Jane Musgrave

Eddie Dillard, a supporter of Republican presidential candidate, Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, center, is sandwiched in between supporters of Republican presidential candidate, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Gingrich security staff outside a polling place at the First Baptist Church of Windermere in Orlando, Fla., Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2012. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

It’s not easy being a Ron Paul supporter on election day in Florida, what with your candidate in Nevada, having never scheduled one campaign event in the Sunshine State.

But Paul supporters have been out today nonetheless. Waving signs, they have turned up at events scheduled by GOP presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich. The former House speaker, who is lagging in the polls, is touring Central Florida, grabbing voters and all-important press coverage as voters decide the state’s winner-take-all Republican primary.

When Gingrich made an early morning stop at a polling place in Windermere, Paul supporter Eddie Dillard learned that supporting the Texas congressman at Gingrich events can be risky. Showing reporters a goose-egg on his foot, he claimed he was stomped by a Gingrich supporter/security worker when he waved his sign as television cameras rolled.

Video: First person – Florida voters sound off on the GOP candidates

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012 by Palm Beach Post Staff

Romney says Newt ‘really can’t whine about negative campaigning’

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012 by George Bennett

Romney talks to reporters outside his Florida headquarters in Tampa.

TAMPA — With all signs pointing toward a victory in today’s Florida Republican presidential primary, a confident and casually clad Mitt Romney visited campaign workers at his state headquarters today and said chief rival Newt Gingrich shouldn’t “whine” about attack ads that have dominated Florida airwaves.

“In South Carolina we were vastly outspent with negative ads attacking me and we stood back and talked about President Obama and suffered the consequence of that, plus also I think some good debates from Speaker Gingrich. We came to Florida and Speaker Gingrich didn’t have two good debates — I did,” Romney told reporters.

“We responded to attacks that were coming to us and I’ll tell you, when we’re attacked, I’m not just going to sit back, I’m going to fight back and fight back hard.”

Romney pointed to a Suffolk University poll in which 37 percent of Florida voters said Gingrich ran the most negative campaign, compared to 31 percent who said Romney was the most negative.

“He really can’t whine about negative campaigning when he launched a very negative campaign in South Carolina and when the people in Florida looked at the two campaigns and decided he was the most negative,” Romney said.


Romney’s Mormonism doesn’t grow voters in Plant City

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012 by Jane Musgrave

Republican presidential candidate, former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney pauses during a visit to St. Paul's Lutheran Church while campaigning in a Berlin, N.H. neighborhood, Thursday Dec. 22, 2011. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

PLANT CITY – Wearing a top hat wrapped in an American flag scarf, 84-year-old Jean Barker Weaver wasn’t afraid to utter the words many pundits believe is the reason some Republican are supporting Newt Gingrich over Mitt Romney.

“I’m voting for a man who’s not in a cult,” she said as she waited for Gingrich to arrive at Fred’s Southern Cooking restaurant. “I’m a Baptist. I believe in God. Romney seems like a nice man, he has a nice family, but I don’t want someone from a cult being my president. And most of my friends don’t either.”

Others in this haven for strawberry-growers said they don’t share Weaver’s concern about Romney’s Mormonism.

But, 43-year-old Glenn Harrell said he likes Gingrich better than Romney because the former House speaker “he’ll stand up for Christians.”

Gingrich disrupted the lunch crowd at the buffet-style restaurant on his tour through the state’s mid-section, trying to grab some last minute support as Floridians go to the polls in the GOP presidential primary.

Cheryl Meeks, daughter of the founder of Roy Parkesdale Market, brought Gingrich 8 quarts – 11 pounds – of strawberries. Despite polls showing he’s trailing Romney,she said, “I think he’s going to do it.”

Bucher visits precinct at Howard Park, says there’s a ‘steady clip’ of voters

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012 by Ana Valdes

Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher (right) talks with voters outside the polling place at Howard Park Tuesday around noon. (Lannis Waters/The Palm Beach Post)

Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher is out in the field this afternoon, touring precincts in West Palm Beach and Jupiter.

Bucher’s first stop was at Howard Park in West Palm Beach, where she told Palm Beach Post photographer Lannis Waters that ”things are pretty smooth. There’s a steady clip of voters.”

After her stop in West Palm Beach, Bucher is headed north to Jupiter, where three of the county’s precincts with the most registered Republicans are located. She’s expected to visit precincts at Independence Middle School, the West Jupiter Recreation Center and Dwyer High School.

Son of Reagan a celebrity draw as Gingrich woos voters in Central Florida

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012 by Jane Musgrave

Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich responds to cheering supporters, with Michael Reagan, left, during a rally in Orlando Monday, January 30, 2012. (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel/MCT)

LAKELAND – For the second time in three days, Buddy Fletcher’s real estate office was closed today.

Not by choice or by the housing collapse, but by a crush of people who arrived at the strip shopping center anxious to see GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich as he sought last-minute votes on election day.

“We’re glad to have them,” the proprietor said, looking over the sea of people crammed around the former House speaker, desperate to get an autograph, a handshake, a kind word – anything. On Saturday, the crowd had to settle for Gingrich surrogate former Florida Attorney General Bill McCullom.

Today, they not only got Gingrich, but Michael Reagan, the son of one of the GOP’s beloved presidents, the late Ronald Reagan.

“Oooh, I have to get a picture of him,” one woman squealed when told the balding guy in the pinstripe suit was the former’s president’s son.

Voters report no lines, smooth voting at Jupiter precincts

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012 by Ana Valdes

Voters at two precincts in Jupiter said their voting experience was flawless, with no lines or crowds during today’s Republican primary.

At Independence Middle School near Abacoa, Jupiter residents Chris and Debbie Banker wrapped up their voting in less than 10 minutes. They even brought along their four kids, who are home schooled and have spent the last few days learning about the election process.

Tha Bankers voted for Rick Santorum because they agree with pro-life position and his family values.

Patrick Thompson, 41 of Jupiter, also voted fairly quickly at Independence Middle, but his vote went to Newt Gingrich.

“Right now our country needs experience,” he said, adding that Gingrich’s years in Washington D.C. make him the ideal candidate.

Gingrich’s Freddie Mac work, questions about Romney’s true colors sway voters

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012 by Jane Musgrave

WINDERMERE – A week of attacks and counteracts between the two top GOP presidential candidates appeared to be resonating with voters who began going to the polls today.

Alan Haughey, who lives in this upscale community outside Orlando, said his concerns about Newt Gingrich’s work for mortgage giant Freddie Mac pushed him to vote for Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney.

On the other hand, Dan O’Hara, 71, said Gingrich got his vote because he is a “true conservative.”

Since hitting the Sunshine State last week, Romney has been hammering Gingrich about his $1.6 million consulting contract with Freddie Mac. Gingrich has said he didn’t lobby, merely offered it advice as a historian.

“Totally hypocritical,” Haughey declared.

At the same time, Gingrich has been blasting Romney as a moderate, at times even calling his chief opponent “a liberal.” To prove Gingrich’s credentials as a “Reagan conservative,” the revered late president’s son on Monday joined him on the campaign trail. Michael Reagan, the oldest son of the late President Ronald Reagan, is riding with the former House speaker on his campaign bus to various Orlando area polling places today.

“He’s carried the direction of the conservative movement in spite of the fact that a lot of Republicans don’t like him,” said O’Hara, who got a chance to talk to Gingrich, express their shared conservative views and snap a picture.

But while O’Hara likes the bombastic side of Gingrich, it worries Haughey.

“He’s as divisive a candidate as we can run,” he said. “Right now we need people working together. The problems we have are way too significant to do it on a partisan basis.”

Scott votes. For whom? Won’t say

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012 by John Kennedy

Gov. Rick Scott declined to say who he voted for in Florida’s Republican presidential primary, after casting his ballot early Tuesday at a community center a couple blocks from the Governor’s Mansion.

Florida’s chief executive, who had declined to endorse or campaign with any of the contenders in the race, continued to keep his distance.

“It’s a secret ballot, fortunately,” Scott said.

He acknowledged though, his favorite had “less than 10 letters in their last name,” a standard that covers the field.


All polls open in Palm Beach County, no problems reported so far, according to elections officials

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012 by Ana Valdes

All precincts in Palm Beach County are open, and so far everything is running smoothly, said Susan Bucher, Palm Beach County’s Supervisor of Elections.

“It looks like everything is going to be fine,” she said.

Bucher is expected to visit several precincts throughout the county this morning.

About a dozen early-morning voters cast ballots in Palm Beach as polls open at 7 a.m.

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012 by Ana Valdes

Palm Beach – At St. Edward Church in Palm Beach, close to a dozen Republicans have already voted this morning, just a few minutes after polls opened at 7 a.m.

Outside the precinct, a Newt Gingrich supporter placed some campaign signs on the grass, but a precinct worker asked that the signs be removed because the church does not allow signs on the grass.

After a tense exchange with a poll worker, Gingrich’s supporter removed the signs and left.

In Palm Beach this morning, a Gingrich supporter removes his signs outside St. Edward Church after a poll worker told him the church does not allow signs on the grass. (Lannis Waters/The Palm Beach Post)

Meanwhile, Frank Coniglio, 73 of Palm Beach, was inside voting for Mitt Romney.

“It’s him because he’s capable of doing the job and winning the election,” he said.

Precinct 1196 is located at St. Edward’s Church in Palm Beach.

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