Tue January 31, 2012
It's All Politics

Romney's Fla. Co-Chairman: Win Tied To Economy... And November

Mitt Romney's Florida campaign co-chairman says Romney's stance on the mortgage crisis resonated strongly with Republican voters in the Sunshine State.

"It's at the epicenter of the problems we're facing in our economy here," Tom Lee, who served as president of the Florida Senate and now works in the homebuilding industry, told NPR's Ari Shapiro. "If we don't get housing turned around, we're not going to get America turned around."

"We've got to get people back to work so they can start paying their mortgages again and get housing back on the uptake," said Lee.

Early exit polls show the economy was the top issue for more than 60 percent of Florida Republican voters Tuesday, the AP reported. Romney rolled to a 14.5-percentage-point victory over Newt Gingrich in the state's primary.

Lee says the intense battle waged among Republican candidates over the past month will ultimately help Romney if he wins his party's nomination.

"I think it's allowed Gov. Romney to address many of the concerns that are going to be expressed by the Democrats in the general election," says Lee. "I think this is all very healthy and has gotten his name here on the map in the state of Florida."

Later, in his victory speech, Romney agreed.

"Primary contests are not easy — and they're not supposed to be," Romney told supporters in Tampa. "A competitive primary does not divide us. It prepares us. ... And when we gather back here in Tampa seven months from now for our convention, ours will be a united party with a winning ticket."

Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Florida congresswoman, took to Twitter Tuesday night to disagree: "With every passing GOP contest, Romney becomes weaker with key general election swing and independent voters — should he make it that far."

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.