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Half of early voters in Florida backed Romney, survey shows

More than a third of Florida Republican primary voters have already voted for their preferred presidential candidate, and just over half of those voters cast their ballot for Mitt Romney, according to a new survey.

A total of 36 percent of Florida GOP voters said they have already voted through absentee ballot or early voting, according to a poll from the American Research Group, conducted January 29-30. Among those voters, 51 percent backed the former Massachusetts governor. Newt Gingrich won 29 percent of the early vote, followed by former Sen. Rick Santorum with 12 percent support and Rep. Ron Paul with 8 percent.

Florida Republican officials have confirmed that more than 600,000 Florida Republicans have already voted, amounting to between 30 to 40 percent of the total primary electorate. Among the remaining 64 percent of voters, Romney leads with 39 percent, according to the ARG poll.

Overall, Romney leads with 43 percent support while Gingrich garners 31 percent. Santorum wins 13 percent support, and Paul gets 9 percent.

Polls opened at 7 a.m. on Monday, and if Romney were to hold his vote, Gingrich would have to receive 51 percent of the votes cast today in order to tie the former governor at 43 percent, according to ARG.

Florida polling precinct
A Republican primary voter heads to the polls early at polling precinct No. 133 at the Coliseum in St. Petersburg, Florida. Polling booths opened in Florida on January 31, the largest state so far in the Republican White House race, with Mitt Romney holding a solid lead over Newt Gingrich in the latest polls. AUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images

Appealing to early voters was a major part of the Romney campaign's Florida strategy, the Tampa Bay Times reports. As soon as the state in December made available a list of voters requesting absentee ballots, the campaign started reaching out to those voters. In addition to contacting them by mail and phone, some were invited to participate in a series of tele-town halls.

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