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Romney takes Florida primary

Former Mass. governor gains edge over Gingrich

Mitt Romney won the Florida primary, report The New York Times and other major news organizations, based on exit polling and actual vote counts.

Romney held a nearly 18 percent lead over Newt Gingrich, at approximately 48 percent, and Rick Santorum was a distant third at 12.8 percent. Ron Paul garnered only 6.8 percent of the vote, as the votes were still being counted.

The Associated Press reported that Romney’s lead was “commanding” after “rebounding powerfully from the previous week's defeat and reaching for a resounding victory over Newt Gingrich in the race for the Republican presidential nomination.”

The Florida primary is worth 50 delegates at the Republican National Convention.

“How important is Florida?” Romney said, "Today it’s the most important thing in the world to me."

Gingrich appeared confident while polling stations were open, telling ABC News, "I’m not going to lose big in Florida." He also said he expected the Republican nomination race to go on for six or eight more months, "unless Romney drops out earlier."

Campaigning before the Florida primary became extremely negative, with Gingrich and Romney's respective Super PACs releasing negative ads tearing into their rivals. Romney said, "I’ll tell you, if you attack me, I’m not going to just sit back, I’m going to fight back and I’m going to fight back hard," according to Politico.

In a short speech delivered just half an hour after he was declared the victor, Romney took aim at President Obama instead of his rivals, saying, "Together, we will build an America where 'hope' is a new job with a paycheck, not a faded word on an old bumper sticker."

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This article originally appeared on GlobalPost.

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Mitt Romney