Polls Open In FL, GOP Voters Have Their Say

MIAMI (AP) — While polls gave Mitt Romney strong odds to win Florida’s Republican primary, some voters said Tuesday they weren’t all that enthusiastic about their ballot choices.

Romney entered the day as the heavy favorite over Newt Gingrich in Florida’s winner-take-all primary, though some supporters interviewed Tuesday expressed little passion for him.

Mayra Canto, 55, said she voted for the former Massachusetts governor, but she also called him “the best of the worst.”

“I consider him to be more honest and with less baggage than the others,” the 55-year-old Canto said as she ordered coffee at Versailles Restaurant, a well-known political hub in Miami’s Little Havana.

Mario Denis, 36, said he planned to see how busy the polls were before going to vote. If he makes it into the voting booth, his vote will be for Romney, even though Denis said he wasn’t happy about the candidate’s foreign policy.

“The way I see it, it’s the lesser of two evils,” said Denis, who also was at Versailles.

Romney’s business experience swayed some voters concerned about the economic recovery. Others simply saw him as the candidate with the best chance of defeating President Barack Obama in the general election.

“I think he has a grasp of economics and business that the other candidates don’t have,” Tony Dowel said after voting for Romney at St. Edward Church in Palm Beach.

The 75-year-old retired stockbroker also supported Romney four years ago.

“I want to vote for a winner,” Dowel said.

GOP officials in Florida were anticipating a turnout of more than 2 million voters, up from a record 1.9 million in the Republican primary in 2008. More than 635,000 Floridians had already voted as of Monday, either by visiting early voting stations or by mailing in absentee ballots, ahead of the total combined early vote in the GOP primary four years ago.

The last polls will close at 8 p.m. Tuesday.

Gingrich had momentum coming off his South Carolina primary win, but Romney and his allies poured more than $14 million into Florida television advertising, primarily to attack Gingrich — a tactic that turned off some voters.

Sarah Agner of Miami said she would vote for Romney because he has “good values and morals,” but she said the negative ad campaigns had soured her on politics.

“I think the candidates are more interested in throwing each other under the bus than focusing on the issues,” said Agner, 37, who is studying to be a paralegal.

Retiree Dorothy Anderson said Romney’s ads pushed her to vote for Gingrich, the former House speaker and Georgia congressman.

“The dirty ads really turned me off on Mitt Romney,” she said after voting at a Pinellas Park retirement community. “In fact, if he gets the nomination, I probably won’t vote for him.”

But Gingrich’s baggage swayed retiree Curtis Dempsey against Gingrich. Dempsey, also voting at the retirement community, said he would sit out the general election if Gingrich wins the Republican nomination.

“Well, the only thing Newt Gingrich has to offer is a big mouth and he’s been showing that for some time,” Dempsey said. “Plus he got kicked out of the Congress. He was the lead man there for a while. How do you get kicked out of the Congress and then run for president of the United States?”

Gingrich resigned after a spate of ethics problems and a poor showing for House Republicans in the 1998 elections.

His supporters called him the “real conservative” in the Republican race.

James Pokrant had supported Herman Cain early on, but he voted Tuesday for Gingrich, whom Cain has endorsed.

“He’s more conservative than Mitt Romney and the problem I have with Mitt Romney is that he’s jumped the fence back and forth a couple of times. I believe in conservative values,” said Pokrant, a 41-year-old traffic signal technician who voted in Pensacola before going to work.

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and Texas Rep. Ron Paul have ceded Florida’s vote to the two front-runners and planned to spend the day campaigning in Colorado and Nevada, but their supporters made themselves visible Tuesday.

A Paul supporter in the parking lot of a Miami polling station handed out fliers comparing all the Republican candidates with the Texas congressman.

Sandra Brady, 65, and her husband cast their votes for Santorum at a Palm Beach church. The couple, formerly of Indiana, Pa., said they have been familiar with Santorum’s politics for years.

“He’s the guy that has never wavered,” Brady said of Santorum, a social conservative. “He has been what he is today since the first time I ever heard him.”


Associated Press writers Matt Sedensky in Palm Beach, Kelli Kennedy in Fort Lauderdale, Tamara Lush in Pinellas Park, Melissa Nelson in Pensacola and Jennifer Kay in Miami contributed to this report.

Source: Christine Armario – AP