Florida is the largest state to hold a presidential primary so far this year and a Romney victory would give him a big boost in the state-by-state battle to decide who will face President Barack Obama in November.
Polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 7 p.m. local time. Most of the state is on Eastern Time, except the western Panhandle region, which is on Central Time, reports Reuters.
A Reuters/Ipsos poll released late on Monday showed Romney’s support at 43 percent versus Gingrich at 28 percent.
A straw poll of conservative Tea Party sympathizers released on Monday gave Gingrich 35 percent support against former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum at 31 percent and Romney at 18 percent.
Both other key voter groups, including Hispanics, seem to be heavily favoring Romney, whose campaign has run an aggressive ground-game for weeks.
More than 600,000 Floridians have already cast ballots during the state’s early-voting period and they favored Romney by a wide margin, the Reuters/Ipsos poll showed.
Battling hard, the Gingrich tactic has been to deride Romney as a “Massachusetts moderate” who raised taxes and fees as governor, enforced a healthcare mandate, and will not provide a sharp enough contrast to Democrat Obama.
On the stump on Monday, Romney was breezy and Gingrich combative, reflecting the respective states of their campaigns. Romney cancelled his scheduled Tuesday morning event in Tampa; Gingrich will crisscross the Orlando region making four appearances in a final appeal for support.
Romney’s advertising has focused on Gingrich’s work for mortgage giant Freddie Mac, and an ethics probe and his resignation as speaker. It has also mocked Gingrich’s attempt to ride the coattails of conservative hero Ronald Reagan.
“There’s nothing like $17.5 million of false ads to make a big difference,” Gingrich told CNN on Monday. “I have never seen a candidate for president that methodically dishonest.”
“We were getting just walked on by Speaker Gingrich and really didn’t respond very well in South Carolina,” Romney said on NBC’s “Today” show on Monday. “So we decided, we’re going to respond.”
At the same time, Newt Gingrich may face a lawsuit over his use of “Eye of the Tiger,” the theme song to the movie “Rocky III.”
After months of attempting to deal with Gingrich’s campaign, a Palatine-based music publishing company owned by Survivor lead guitarist Frankie Sullivan has filed suit seeking damages and an injunction to block the Republican contender from using the song at appearances and in campaign videos, Chicago Tribune reports.
The complaint states that the violation it alleges is intentional since Gingrich is “sophisticated and knowledgeable” concerning copyright laws. Rude Music Inc has requested the court to order an end to unauthorized use of the song by the defendants, and to award Rude Music Inc damages.
“This has nothing to do with politics. This is a copyright issue,” said Annette McGarry, Sullivan’s lawyer. “We’ve tried to deal with them for months, and they’ve been trying to ignore it.”
According to Reuters, a Gingrich campaign spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment.
Meanwhile, in a letter to Florida GOP State Chairman Lenny Curry on December 21, 2011, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus noted that under committee rules, states other than Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina could not be “winner-take-all” if they held their primaries or caucuses prior to April 1, 2012.
Florida violated that law by moving its primary up to January 31. After Florida’s primary on Tuesday, Nevada’s February 4 caucuses are the next contest in the process of choosing a Republican nominee.