Mitt Romney Looks for Win in Florida Republican Primary

Floridians are set to vote in the state's Republican primary as rivals Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich look to capitalise on earlier wins.

Floridians are set to vote in the state's Republican primary as rivals Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich look to capitalise on earlier wins.

“I'm beginning to feel we might win,” Mitt Romney said Monday as he campaigned in Florida.

Mr Romney has surged ahead in the Florida polls, ahead of Mr Gingrich by 15% in the most recent survey.

The other hopefuls, Ron Paul and Rick Santorum, have abandoned campaigning in Florida, making it in effect a race between two candidates.

Latinos and retired voters make up key voting blocs in the state.

Both Mr Romney and Mr Gingrich are looking for increased momentum after early primaries split wins among three different candidates.

Polling stations will be open from 0700 to 1900 (1200-0000 GMT). Early voting has been allowed for the past 10 days, and it is estimated that 600,000 people have already voted.

Republicans are vying to oust Barack Obama from the White House in November.

Primaries and caucuses will be held in every US state to pick a Republican candidate until the eventual winner is crowned at the party's convention in August.

'Just getting started'

Mr Gingrich scored a resounding victory in South Carolina's primary earlier this month, but his momentum has since been stymied in the face of a Romney fightback.

Both candidates crisscrossed Florida on Monday in a final hunt for votes.

Mr Gingrich outlined for supporters what his first day as president would look like

"My goal would be by the end of that first day, about the time that President Obama arrives back in Chicago, that we will have dismantled about 40% of his government," Mr Gingrich told voters in Jacksonville, Florida as part of his stump speech.

Mr Romney finished his day of campaigning at The Villages, a retirement community that has become a popular political stop.

The former Massachusetts governor had attacked Mr Gingrich throughout last week but spent most of the rally focusing on Mr Obama.

Reagan's son campaigns

Several surveys released on Sunday gave Mr Romney a lead of between five and 16 points.

But Mr Gingrich vowed to continue his campaign in the Sunshine State and beyond, attacking Mr Romney's conservative credentials.

"On big philosophical issues, he is for all practical purposes a liberal and I am a conservative and that's what this fight is going to be about all the way to the convention," he told CBS News on Monday.

At least 1,114 delegates are needed to win the Republican nomination at the August convention. In Florida, there are 50 delegates are at stake.

"This race is just getting started," Martin Baker, Gingrich's national political director, told reporters, saying there was "a long way to go" before the nomination was decided.

The former House speaker also campaigned with former President Ronald Reagan's son Michael on Monday, hoping to strengthen his campaign's ties to the revered Republican leader's legacy.

Future contests

Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum left Florida over the weekend to be at the hospital bedside of his three-year-old daughter, who has a rare genetic condition.

Rather than return to Florida, he will campaign in Colorado, Minnesota, Missouri and Nevada over the next two days.

Libertarian Texas congressman Ron Paul, meanwhile, is already focusing on Nevada.

Mr Gingrich picked up the endorsement on Saturday night of former rival Herman Cain, who dropped out of the Republican race in December.

The former House speaker is portraying himself as the only viable conservative in the race.

Mr Romney has struggled to dispel misgivings among some Republicans about his political record as governor of the liberal state of Massachusetts and his Mormon faith.

In the past, Mr Romney has adopted a pro-choice stance on abortion, switched positions on gay rights and pushed through a healthcare reform in Massachusetts that was the template for President Obama's overhaul of the system nationally.

The next contest after Florida will be Nevada on Saturday.