‘He’s a successful businessman, and that’s what we need,’ one supporter tells MTV News.
By Gil Kaufman, with reporting by Andrew Jenks
TAMPA, Florida — As you might expect, things were pretty upbeat at the Mitt Romney primary party Tuesday (January 31). With the GOP presidential candidate solidifying his front-runner status following a convincing win over Newt Gingrich, the former Massachusetts Governor’s supporters had high praise as they poured out of the ballroom at the Tampa Convention Center.
After following Romney on his bus Monday and speaking with young voters about the potential impact of the controversial new voter-registration laws in Florida, MTV’s Power of 12 wanted to hear what policies and campaign promises drew 18- to 29-year-old voters to cast a vote for Romney and how they think he may be able to help their generation.
Hillary Brunner, 19, said she was drawn in by Romney’s stance on immigration policy. “I chose to vote for Mitt Romney because I really like his policy on the DREAM Act,” she said of Romney’s pledge to veto a long-stalled immigration measure that would create a path to citizenship for some undocumented immigrants. “And making it if you want to immigrate to this country you have to go to the military first instead of just going to college. I think the military is a great way to show that you really want to be an American and that you love this country and that you are dedicated to this country.”
Her friend, Shelly Mittal, 19, was more drawn to Romney’s character. “I think he has great family and moral values and he possesses a strong attitude towards good business, and I think he can get the economy back toward where it needs to be,” she said.
Not only did Romney trounce bitter rival Gingrich by drawing 46 percent of the vote to the former House speaker’s 32 percent, but in a turnabout from the three previous contests, CNN exit polls in Florida showed that he also finally broke through to young voters (18-29). While Romney had reliably scored with older voters, in Florida, he won 39 percent of the youth votes to 26 percent for Congressman Ron Paul, 23 percent for Gingrich and 12 percent for Rick Santorum.
One of those twentysomething converts, Dywan Washington, 22, said he believes Romney’s extensive experience in the private business sector could be the remedy for the country’s financial ills.
“The key people that we need in Washington, D.C., at any level of government [are] more business people,” Washington said. “We can’t keep going to career politicians who’ve spent 20 to 30 years in D.C. … Governor Romney is a perfect example of executive leadership that we need. … We need executive experience and business experience, and that’s why I support Mitt Romney.”
Earlier in the evening, after congratulating his rivals, Romney issued a stern warning to the Democratic Party in his victory speech. Suspecting that the Obama campaign was savoring the vicious infighting among the GOP candidates, he said, “A competitive primary does not divide us; it prepares us. And we will win.” After he and Gingrich (and their SuperPac supporters) spent more than $20 million on negative ads, Romney took the opportunity Tuesday night to turn his focus away from his competitors and put it squarely on the president: “My leadership will end the Obama era and begin a new era of prosperity.”
MTV is on the scene in Florida! Check back for up-to-the-minute coverage of the primaries and stick with PowerOf12.org throughout the 2012 presidential election season.