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Politics

Florida voters fault both Romney and Gingrich for negative tone

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.

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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.


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