After three GOP presidential candidates claimed victories in the country's first three presidential primaries and caucuses, Mitt Romney once again stepped up to claim his front-runner status with a .
Romney garnered 46 percent of the vote, , while Newt Gingrich received 32 percent. Rick Santorum, who , received 13 percent of the vote and Ron Paul got 7 percent to round out the voting.
The victory gave Romney all 50 of Florida's convention delegates, and more importantly, new momentum heading into a series of caucuses and primaries in the next month building up to Super Tuesday on March 6, when 10 states will hold nominating contests.
In a sign of Romney's new prominence, a federal law enforcement source told CNN that Romney will receive Secret Service protection "within days."
Political writer Peter Schorsch, who edits the Florida political blog Saint Petersblog, underscored the importance of Florida's early primary, Clearwater Patch reported. Schorsch wrote it could be a bellwether for the nation:
"Republican leaders are saying that the contest could decide which one of the candidates wins the nomination — just what legislators wanted when they set up a committee last year that upended the GOP's plans for a carefully orchestrated voting calendar."
But the race will go forward at full speed, as Huffington Post reports, largely because Gingrich has dug in his heels and angrily denounced those who say his candidacy is over after a Florida loss.
From Huffington Post:
Defiantly, Gingrich said this week he'll fight tooth and nail, "state by state," all the way to August and the Republican convention, which, by the way, will be right back here in this city.
There are a few reasons why Gingrich could actually deliver on his threat.
Gingrich has been left for dead twice already in this primary, first when his campaign imploded last June and then again in early January, when his lead in the polls plummeted into the abyss. He has the guts, the brains, the anger, and -- for now -- the money to carry him along for some time. And there is still resistance to Romney from a significant portion of the Republican Party, particularly at its grassroots.
St. Charles County Patch sites are now polling its readers to gauge their interest in the election, its candidates and what issues are most important to them. This poll will be published each week until the end of the election season.
We hope these numbers will provide insight into how attitudes and ideologies shifted throughout what seems sure to be a cutthroat political atmosphere.
Missouri's primary is slated for Feb. 7. However, the and the GOP nominee will be chosen at a March 17 caucus rather than the primary.
For more on the candidates, CLICK HERE. For a live blog of the Florida primary, .
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