Track: Live Florida Primary Returns

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The map on this page shows not only who’s winning in each of the state’s 67 counties, but, using Patchwork Nation, it shows how the candidates are doing in each of Florida’s 10 types of county -– from the wealthy Monied 'Burbs to the metropolitan Immigration Nation counties. It will fill in with data as the results from the primary come in.


What this map means:

The game of presidential see-saw the GOP has been playing in 2012 continues Tuesday night in Florida.

A short 10 days ago former House Speaker Newt Gingrich emerged from the South Carolina Primary with a big win and lot of momentum, it looks like former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is ready to take the momentum back. Many polls show him with a double-digit lead in the Sunshine State.

Florida is considered a critical contest because of the state’s size and diversity. More people will vote Tuesday night than have voted in all the Republican nominating contests thus far combined. And nearly all of Patchwork Nation’s geographic/demographic county types – 10 of the 12 – are represented in the peninsula.

In many ways, Romney’s lead is not a surprise. Florida is good territory for him. More than half its population (52%) lives in two county types that are a good fit for him – the wealthy suburban Monied Burbs and the Boom Towns that grew rapidly in the last decade. Those counties tend to have higher education and income levels – two factors that exit polls show are key to Romney.

They also tend to be less ideologically charged and Romney has done better with moderates.

Watch the vote as it comes in Tuesday night in those counties. If Romney does well in them his campaign can argue that South Carolina was something of fluke with little bearing on the rest of the primary season.

The bigger questions now, however, may center on Newt Gingrich. Momentum in the 2012 GOP campaign has been a fleeting thing and if he can’t win the state, he would at least like a strong showing. For him, a few places may be key.

The culturally conservative Evangelical Epicenters may be good for Gingrich, but very view Floridians live in those 10 counties. A better way to get a sense of the night for the former speaker will be to watch the state’s aging Emptying Nest counties, which hold some 20 percent of the state’s population.

Many of Florida’s Emptying Nests sit in the middle of the state along the always-critical Interstate-4 highway corridor. Those places can be hard to get a read on. They also tend to be socially conservative, but have a streak of pragmatism in them as well. Their main issues are often keeping taxes low and what might be described as family values.

Whether or not Gingrich has a good Tuesday night (a win or, more likely, a close loss) may well depend on how the vote in those places breaks and it seems both of the current Republican front-runners understand that.

Gingrich and Romney logged appearances at The Villages in recent days, the massive 55-and-over community in the middle of the state – some 75,000 people live there. The settlement straddles Lake and Sumter counties (Sumter is a Boom Town in Patchwork Nation because of the rapid growth there, but it is one that certainly feels like an Emptying Nest in the Villages and it may end up voting more like one. Organized senior communities tend to vote in very high percentages.)

Both of the rallies and speeches drew well, but Romney’s event had roughly three times the people according to one Villages worker. Of course, Romney’s event has been planned weeks in advance, while Gingrich’s was put together quickly. And the Romney rally, while well attended, was not enthusiastic.

Tuesday night will bring some clarity to what those older voters and aging communities were actually thinking.