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Florida Primary Aftermath: Attack ads pay off for Mitt Romney

5:43 PM, Feb 1, 2012   |    comments
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Tampa, Florida -- Trailing in the polls a little more than a week ago, presidential candidate Mitt Romney decided to go on the attack. Many experts believe that decision was largely responsible for his 14-point victory in Florida's Republican primary on Tuesday.

Romney saturated TV airwaves going after Newt Gingrich on everything from his work with Freddie Mac to the former House Speaker's 1997 ethics violation to his relationship with former President Ronald Reagan.

Exit polls by CNN suggest the carpet bombing of more than $15-million in negative ads appears to have paid off. The polls show 71% of primary voters admitted the TV ads were a factor in who they picked, with 53% of those people voting for Romney compared to just 28% for Gingrich.

Tampa Bay Times Political Editor Adam Smith called Romney's ads "brutally effective."

"Really the story of what happened to Newt Gingrich, he came out of South Carolina with a lot of momentum and those ads just killed him. You can't compete if you're being outspent 4 or 5-to-1," he told 10 News. "Sometimes antagonism can be a more powerful force than liking somebody and that's what we saw," Smith added.

But experts caution Romney will need to be careful moving forward.

"Will that work all of the time? No, not every time. It can backfire, depending on what you say and that specific dynamics of a specific race," said New College of Florida Associate Professor of Political Science Frank Alcock.

Of course, attack ads were not the only reason for Romney's victory in the Sunshine State. Exits polls showed 86% of voters were also swayed by what happened during the two Florida debates with Romney again scoring higher with that group than Gingrich.

Electability also worked in Romney's favor with 53% of voters believing the former Massachusetts Governor is most likely to defeat President Obama while Gingrich garnered just 29%.

But given how quickly polls shifted once Romney went on the attack it's a safe bet those types of ads won't stop until there is a clear winner. 

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