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Upbeat Romney eyes win in Florida

MIAMI -- Cheered by new polls, Mitt Romney is all but predicting victory in today's Republican presidential primary. Newt Gingrich is looking past Florida to regroup, vowing he won't stay buried long.

"With a turnout like this, I'm beginning to feel we might win tomorrow," an upbeat Romney told a crowd of several hundred at a stop Monday in Dunedin.

Gingrich, in turn, acknowledged that his momentum had been checked but promised not to back down. He characterized Romney as an impostor, and his team started to plot a strategy for upcoming contests.

"He can bury me for a very short amount of time with four or five or six times as much money," Gingrich said in a television interview. "In the long run, the Republican Party is not going to nominate . . . a liberal Republican."

GOP officials in Florida were anticipating more than 2 million voters turning out, up from 1.9 million in 2008. Election officials had already received more than 338,000 absentee ballots, 37,000 more than the total early ballots cast four years ago.

In the span of a volatile week, the tables have turned in this potentially pivotal primary state.

Gingrich rode a triumphant wave into Florida after a South Carolina victory nine days ago. But since then, Romney and his allies have pummeled the former House speaker on TV and on the campaign trail. Romney turned in two strong debate performances.

Neither former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum nor Texas Rep. Ron Paul campaigned much in the state, and were elsewhere yesterday.

Romney was in northern Florida and the swing regions of Central Florida. Gingrich also made stops in northern Florida, starting in Jacksonville, before touching down in conservative Pensacola and then Tampa.

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