Romney Rebounds with Big Win in Florida

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney staked his claim to the distinction of being the frontrunner for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination

Wednesday, Feb 1, 2012  |  Updated 6:59 AM PDT
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Romney Rebounds with Big Win in Florida

AP

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney smiles as he is welcomed to the stage during his victory celebration after winning the Florida primary election Tuesday Jan. 31, 2012, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Mitt Romney rolled to victory in Tuesday’s Florida primary, dealing a major blow to his top rival Newt Gingrich.

With 98 percent of precincts reporting, Romney claimed 46 percent of the vote, putting him 14 percentage points ahead of Gingrich, who NBC projected came in second place.

Romney focused his victory speech on President Obama. "Mr. President, you were elected to lead," he told a packed crowd of supporters.

"You chose to follow, and now it's time for you to get out of the way."

Rick Santorum and Ron Paul trailed, each garnering less than 15 percent of the vote. Romney's strong rebound after South Carolina's stinging defeat puts him in a comfortable lead as the contest heads to Nevada and Maine on Saturday. Gingrich vowed to stay in what he called "a two-person race between the conservative leader, Newt Gingrich, and the Massachusetts moderate."

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