Mitt Romney won the Florida primary Tuesday, report The New York Times and other major news organizations, based on exit polling and actual vote counts.
Romney won with a 14 percent lead over Newt Gingrich, at approximately 46.4 percent. Rick Santorum was a distant third at 13.4 percent. Ron Paul garnered only 7 percent of the vote.
“A competitive primary does not divide us,” Romney told his supporters after winning, reported The Times. “It prepares us. And we will win.”
He urged Republicans to focus on defeating President Obama, declaring, “I stand ready to lead this party and to lead our nation.”
The Associated Press reported that Romney’s lead was “commanding” after “rebounding powerfully from the previous week's defeat and reaching for a resounding victory over Newt Gingrich in the race for the Republican presidential nomination.”
The Florida primary is worth 50 delegates at the Republican National Convention.
More on GlobalPost: Florida primary: exit polls make good reading for Romney camp
“How important is Florida?” Romney said, "Today it’s the most important thing in the world to me."
Gingrich appeared confident while polling stations were open, telling ABC News, "I’m not going to lose big in Florida." He also said he expected the Republican nomination race to go on for six or eight more months, "unless Romney drops out earlier."
Campaigning before the Florida primary became extremely negative, with Gingrich and Romney's respective Super PACs releasing negative ads tearing into their rivals. Romney said, "I’ll tell you, if you attack me, I’m not going to just sit back, I’m going to fight back and I’m going to fight back hard," according to Politico.
In a short speech delivered just half an hour after he was declared the victor, Romney took aim at President Obama instead of his rivals, saying, "Together, we will build an America where 'hope' is a new job with a paycheck, not a faded word on an old bumper sticker."
Al Jazeera's report from earlier today: