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Florida (hearts) Mitt Romney. Especially older voters, who powered a definitive Romney victory over Newt Gingrich in the Republican presidential primary.

Seven in 10 Florida primary voters were 50-plus. In the 50-64 age group, Romney won 44 percent to Gingrich’s 34 percent. In the 65-plus group, Romney’s victory was even more pronounced, 51 percent to 34 percent.

Maybe Florida primary voters loved what Romney said about Medicare and Social Security, two lifelines in a state where 18 percent of the population is 65 or older.

“We will never go after Medicare and Social Security, we will protect those programs,” Romney said the other night, a statement clearly aimed at older voters who might not be so enamored of his support for Republican Rep. Paul Ryan’s plan to overhaul Medicare.YouTube Preview Image

(See what GOP candidates told AARP about Social Security, Medicare and other issues of interest to older voters.)

Florida will be a November battleground, with its rich electoral pot and its diversity of voters. Watch the older vote: In 2008, Republican John McCain was the hands-down choice of 65-plus voters, but Barack Obama won the 50-64 age group.

Florida’s primary voters gave Romney a badly needed lift after his crushing defeat by Gingrich in South Carolina. Florida voters said Romney had a better shot at wresting the White House from President Obama. And half said that home foreclosures in their community are a major problem, and they put their faith in Romney.

But Gingrich vows to carry the primary fight forward, and he was buoyed by signs like this: Self-identified conservatives barely gave Romney the edge over Gingrich, and the strongest supporters of the tea party movement preferred Gingrich by a double-digit margin.

Next up: Nevada, on Feb. 4, a tea party hotbed.

See all Election 2012 posts.

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