Odds are that today's Republican primary in Florida won't be nearly as dramatic as the previous contest in South Carolina. Polls have been predicting a comfortable win for Mitt Romney and, as The Washington Post reports, a Quinnipiac University poll released yesterday gave Romney a 14-point lead over Newt Gingrich.
And unlike South Carolina, the one gaining momentum headed into today is Romney. At the end of last week, Quinnipiac reported a 9-point lead.
Public Policy Polling also reports that over the past 72 hours, their tracking poll has found little movement in the race. That likely means that Republicans in the state have settled on a candidate. PPP's last tracking poll has Romney up by 8 points.
Polls in Florida open at 7 a.m. and close at 7 p.m. But, as CNN reports, 632,000 have already voted, either through an absentee ballott or through early voting.
"To put it in perspective, that's more than the 601,577 who voted in the South Carolina primary, and far outpaces the combined 360,000 that took part in the New Hampshire primary and the Iowa caucuses," CNN reports.
Looking ahead, The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza expects that a big Romney win would put him at cruising altitude for a bit:
"A Florida win — particularly a convincing one in the double-digit range — would set up Romney very nicely for the slow month of February. He is a clear favorite to win the Nevada caucuses — he took 51 percent of the vote there in 2008, in large part because of the state's Mormon population — and should be favored in Michigan, the state where he was born and his father served as governor, and Arizona, another state with many Mormons.
"That trio of likely Romney wins on the heels of a come-from-behind victory in Florida could bode poorly for Gingrich, who has struggled to bring in money through his own campaign and whose rise has been fueled by the panoply of debates. (The next GOP debate is scheduled for Feb. 22 in Arizona.)"
NPR's Craig Windham is in Tampa this morning. He reports that he has seen "wall-to-wall negative ads." It's a negative Gingrich ad, followed by a negative Romney ad.
"You have to wonder, though, what kind of aftertaste all this negative aftertaste will leave, not just among Republicans but among other voters as well," Craig said.