GOP Candidates Spar in Florida Debate in Preparation for Critical Primary

Florida is easily the largest, most important and diverse state to vote in the Republican primaries so far.

It’s the fourth largest state in the country and winning there is an absolute must if the eventual Republican nominee is to win the White House. Its voters include white Evangelicals, blue collar workers, lots of retired military and seniors, “refugees” from the colder state of the Northeast and Midwest, and a generous dose of minorities.

As for the candidates, each had an overriding priority in the debate Monday evening.

Newt Gingrich is riding the “Big Mo.” He wanted to reassure voters that he is the “big picture conservative” who can best engage President Obama on key economic and foreign policy issues.

Mitt Romney’s chief goal was to slow Gingrich’s surging momentum and poll numbers. He also wanted to refocus the debate to his strength as a steady and credible conservative who has the business experience necessary to fix America’s broken economy.