PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. - On the weekend before the pivotal Florida primary, Newt Gingrich vowed Saturday to stay in the race for the Republican presidential nomination until the national convention this summer even if he loses Tuesday's vote. Front-runner Mitt Romney poured on the criticism of his rival in television ads airing across the state.
Gingrich's pledge, in a race defined by unpredictability, raised the prospect of an extended struggle inside the party as Republicans work to defeat President Barack Obama in the fall. "You just had two national polls that show me ahead," he said. "Why don't you ask Gov. Romney what he will do if he loses" in Florida.
The former Massachusetts governor countered a few hours later while in Panama City. "I think we are going to win here, I sure hope so," he said.
As the two rivals made their appeals to Hispanic, Jewish and tea party voters, veterans of the armed forces and others, all known indicators pointed to a good day for Romney in the primary.
He and his allies held a 3-1 advantage in money spent on television advertising in the race's final days. Robust early vote and absentee ballot totals followed a pre-primary turnout operation by his campaign. Even the schedules the two men kept underscored the shape of the race - moderate for Romney, heavy for Gingrich.
Campaigning like a front-runner, Romney made few references to Gingrich. Instead, he criticized Obama's plans to cut the size of the armed forces. "He's detached from reality," the former Massachusetts governor said.
"The foreign policy of 'pretty please' is not working terribly well," he added. Romney said he wants to add 100,000 troops, not cut them.