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Politics

Florida GOP Voters Choosing ‘Best Of The Worst’ At Polls

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Newt Gingrich supporters outside a polling place at First Baptist Church of Windermere on Jan. 31, 2012 in Orlando, Florida. (credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Newt Gingrich supporters outside a polling place at First Baptist Church of Windermere on Jan. 31, 2012 in Orlando, Florida. (credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

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MIAMI (AP) — While polls gave Mitt Romney strong odds to win Florida’s Republican primary, some voters said Tuesday they weren’t all that enthusiastic about their choices on the ballot.

Romney entered the day as the heavy favorite over Newt Gingrich in Florida’s winner-take-all primary. Rick Santorum and Ron Paul have ceded the vote to the two front-runners and planned to spend the day campaigning in Colorado and Nevada.

Mayra Canto, 55, said she voted for Romney, but she also called him “the best of the worst.”

“I consider him to be more honest and with less baggage than the others,” said Canto, 55, as she ordered coffee at Versailles Restaurant, a famed political hub in Miami’s Little Havana.

Mario Denis, 36, said he planned to see how busy the polls were before going to vote. If he makes it into the voting booth, his vote will be for Romney, even though Denis said he wasn’t happy about Romney’s foreign policy.

“The way I see it, it’s the lesser of two evils,” said Denis, who also was at Versailles.

Romney’s business experience swayed some voters concerned about the economic recovery. Others simply saw him as the candidate most likely to succeed against President Barack Obama in the general election.

“I think he has a grasp of economics and business that the other candidates don’t have,” Tony Dowel said after voting for Romney at St. Edward Church in Palm Beach.

The 75-year-old retired stockbroker from Palm Beach also supported Romney four years ago.

“I want to vote for a winner,” Dowel said.

GOP officials in Florida were anticipating a big turnout of more than 2 million voters, up from a record 1.9 million in the Republican primary in 2008. More than 635,000 Floridians had already voted as of Monday, either by visiting early voting stations or by mailing in absentee ballots, ahead of the total combined early vote in the GOP primary four years ago.

Romney and his allies have poured more than $14 million into Florida television advertising, primarily to attack Gingrich — a tactic that turned off some voters.

Sarah Agner of Miami said she would vote for Romney because he has “good values and morals,” but she said the negative ad campaigns had soured her on politics.

“I think the candidates are more interested in throwing each other under the bus than focusing on the issues,” said Agner, 37, who is studying to be a paralegal.

Retiree Dorothy Anderson said Romney’s ads pushed her to vote for Gingrich.

“The dirty ads really turned me off on Mitt Romney,” she said after voting at a Pinellas Park retirement community. “In fact, if he gets the nomination, I probably won’t vote for him.”

But Gingrich’s baggage swayed retiree Curtis Dempsey against the former House Speaker. Dempsey, also voting at the retirement community, said he would sit out the general election if Gingrich wins the Republican nomination.

“Well, the only thing Newt Gingrich has to offer is a big mouth and he’s been showing that for some time,” Dempsey said. “Plus he got kicked out of the Congress. He was the lead man there for a while. How do you get kicked out of the Congress and then run for president of the United States?”

(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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