A small group of Newt Gingrich supporters was silent and grim-faced Tuesday night as the networks called the Florida primary for rival Mitt Romney moments after the polls closed.
“I expected him to win,” said Marilyn Butler, 65, of Orlando. “And we’ll keep working till he’s the nominee.”
The retired Navy woman said Gingrich was felled by the multimillion-dollar attack ads aired against the former House speaker by Romney and his supporters.
“It was all those lies from Romney,” she fumed.
But she remained confident.
“He’ll come out with the truth and eventually win,” she said, awaiting Gingrich’s speech in a ballroom at the Rosen Centre Hotel, adding that she wanted to hear from him “that he’s going to go on, that we’re going to go on.”
Campaigning in recent days, Gingrich has insisted that he would fight until the GOP convention, and that he believed his path to the nomination was conservative Republicans consolidating behind his candidacy. The campaign certainly telegraphed that Tuesday night was not the end, placing a sign reading “46 states to go” in front of the lectern that Gingrich will use.
The hotel ballroom for Gingrich’s election party was more than half-empty well after the event began, with reporters and photographers outnumbering his supporters. Many people in the room were political tourists, such as Amy and Katie Harvey, residents of Green Bay, Wis., who were vacationing in Orlando. The mother and daughter, staunch Republicans, had dinner down the street at a steakhouse and came to the party in hopes of catching a glimpse of Gingrich.
Amy Harvey joked that she hoped to see Gingrich’s wife, Callista, “and her jewelry,” referring to the six-figure revolving line of credit the couple had at Tiffany, before answering more seriously, “I want to see the next presidential nominee.”
“I like him because he calls a spade a spade,” Amy Harvey said. “I think he’ll stay in.”
Daughter Katie, a Romney supporter, was less certain of his prospects.
“I think he will stay in just to stay in,” said the registered nurse. “But I think it all came down to Florida.”
Regardless, the women said they would support whomever the GOP nominated in hopes of defeating President Obama.
“I’ll take either one,” Amy Harvey said.