Florida primary exit polls: 2/3rds say debates mattered

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Two in three Florida primary voters say the presidential debates were an important factor in their vote, according to early CBS News exit polls. That’s a positive sign for Mitt Romney, who was widely seen as besting rival Newt Gingrich in the two Sunshine State debates over the past week.

For evidence of the importance of the debates, look no further than South Carolina, where nearly the same percentage of voters said the debates were important in early exit polls. Gingrich was widely seen as the victor in the two debates there, and he went on to a double-digit victory.

Electability was what Florida Republican voters were seeking in a candidate: 45 percent said the most important candidate quality is that they could defeat President Obama. That was followed by having the right experience (20 percent), having strong character (17 percent) and being a true conservative (13 percent).

sked who has run the most unfair campaign, 37 percent of Florida voters pointed to Romney, whose super PAC has blanketed the state with negative ads about Gingrich. Thirty-four percent pointed to Gingrich. Ron Paul and Rick Santorum, who did not seriously contest the winner-take-all primary, were selected by just four percent each.

Thirty-nine percent of Florida voters said campaign ads were an important factor in their decision; 58 percent said they were not. Romney and his super PAC far outspent his rivals in advertising in the Sunshine State, which is one of the most expensive states in the country to run ads in because of its many media markets.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.