In the closing days of the Florida primary campaign, Newt Gingrich accused Mitt Romney of running a “pathetic” and “methodically dishonest” campaign. But an exit poll of Sunshine State Republicans shows that voters were roughly divided over which candidate slung the most mud.
According to CBS News, 37% of Republican primary voters thought Romney had waged the most unfair campaign, while 34% said it was Gingrich. Few thought that of Ron Paul or Rick Santorum, but then again, neither waged as active a campaign as the two front-runners.
The early exit polls only offered a few clues as to which candidate would ultimately be the victor. Forty-five percent of voters said the most important quality in a candidate was beating President Obama, 20% said it was having the right experience, 17% said a strong character and just 13% said being a “true conservative.”
Once again, the debates loomed large in voters’ minds. Two-in-three said the televised forums were an important factor in their votes. Thirty-nine percent said the flood of television ads was important.
Despite the heated campaign in the 10 days since South Carolina’s primary, many voters said they made up their minds well in advance. Forty-two percent decided on a candidate before this month; 29% decided in early January; 27% did so in the last few days.
A sizable chunk of voters -- 39% -- said they were not happy with the choice of candidates. There were nine candidates on the ballot, only four of whom were still actively waging a campaign.