WASHINGTON, Jan. 31 (Xinhua) -- Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney's victory in the Florida primary on Tuesday would boost his campaign by re-establishing the former Massachusetts governor as the GOP front-runner after his South Carolina defeat.
The South Carolina loss on Jan. 21 has blown a hole in Romney's inevitability strategy, raising doubt if he was truly the best Republican candidate to fight President Barack Obama in November as he has long been portrayed. As a result, Romney needed a solid win in Florida to reassert himself as the front-runner and regain voters' confidence.
The Florida primary -- the fourth on the GOP primary calendar -- was hugely important. It served as a tie breaker and added some clarity to the race for the Republican presidential nomination. The first three contests produced three different winners -- former Pennsylvania Senator Richard Santorum in Iowa, Romney in New Hampshire, and Newt Gingrich in South Carolina.
Florida was a pivotal battleground as its population outnumbers the combination of the first three early voting states. The Sunshine State has not only the largest Republican electorate of the early contests, its demographic diversity makes it a much better indicator of the country than the other early voting states.
"A Romney victory in Florida would probably end Gingrich's momentum and allow Romney's superior organization and financing to win the nomination in the February primaries," Gregory Koger, associate political science professor at the University of Miami, told Xinhua.
On the other hand, a Gingrich win would have opened the race wide open by legitimizing the former House speaker as the anti-Romney candidate, and elevating his profile among Republican voters as they go to the polls in February, he added.
Romney's win in Florida was largely attributed to his strong debate performances and heavy ads buying primarily targeting Gingrich.
The former governor turned more aggressive in pressing Gingrich in the recent two primary debates in Florida. He and his "super" political action committees -- private organizations that support his candidacy -- spent a huge amount of money in negative advertising against Gingrich, a strategy that worked well in Iowa and so did in Florida.
That's why Gingrich accused Romney of buying the election with his unparalleled wealth and campaign funds.
"This will be a two-person race between the conservative leader Newt Gingrich and the Massachusetts moderate," Gingrich told supporters in Orlando, Florida, on Tuesday night. "We're going to have people power defeat money power in the next six months."
Despite his sounding victory in Florida, Romney is still in a neck-to-neck race with Gingrich on the national stage. The latest Gallup presidential campaign tracking found that 27 percent of Republican voters back Romney as the party's nominee, essentially tied with Gingrich at 28 percent.
There is no sign that the former speaker would quit the race any time soon despite his big loss in Florida and limited campaign funds.
As of Dec. 31, Gingrich's campaign had 2.1 million dollars of cash on hand, along with 1.2 million dollars of debt, his campaign team disclosed Tuesday. Romney has 19.9 million dollars of cash without any debt.
Moreover, a change in the GOP primary rules also makes it harder for any candidate to lock up the nomination at an early stage. Under the new rules, no state that has primary or caucuses before April 1 should be winner-takes-all, instead it should allocate delegates proportional to the vote a candidate wins.