Romney sounding confident as Florida Republicans vote

Mitt Romney
Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney throws bags of chips at traveling reporters on his campaign charter plane in Jacksonville, Fla., Monday, Jan. 30, 2012.
Charles Dharapak/AP

By KASIE HUNT, Associated Press

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- Mitt Romney is starting primary day in Florida leading in statewide polls and already looking to the next round of nomination contests in the Republican presidential race.

Romney is widely expected to do well against chief rival Newt Gingrich in Tuesday's voting.

The Romney who campaigned Monday was dramatically more confident than the candidate who flew here a week ago from South Carolina, where Gingrich won convincingly.

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"It feels good at this point," Romney told reporters aboard his campaign plane Monday. "The crowds are good and you can sense that it's coming our way. It's getting better and better every day."

Romney and his allies have pummeled Gingrich on the air in Florida, spending millions on negative ads. Gingrich has complained that the assault is a ``carpet-bombing'' that has left him unable to retaliate.

Romney has also repeatedly attacked Gingrich in speeches around the state. On Monday he labeled Gingrich an untrustworthy Washington influence peddler. His constant linking of Gingrich with the federally backed mortgage giant Freddie Mac has hurt the former speaker in a state wracked by the foreclosure crisis.

After he left Congress in 1999, Gingrich's consulting firm received more than $1.5 million from Freddie Mac, which Romney calls ``the very institution that helped stand behind the huge housing crisis here in Florida.''

Romney is preparing to move his campaign to Nevada and, beyond that, Minnesota. While he didn't have any events scheduled before Tuesday evening, he planned a campaign stop in Minnesota before flying to Las Vegas on Wednesday for an evening campaign event. (Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)