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Speaking in an off-the-cuff manner, Mr. Gingrich said he plans in the days ahead to forge a “people’s campaign — not a Republican campaign, not an establishment campaign, not a Wall Street-funded campaign.” He said he will unveil soon a new “contract” similar to the Contract With America he introduced for the 1994 elections that made him U.S. House speaker.

Mr. Santorum offered a much different take, claiming the Florida results spell trouble for Mr. Gingrich, who he said had missed a clear opportunity to unify conservative voters in Florida.

As a result, he told CNN, conservative voters will be looking for “a different conservative alternative to Mitt Romney.”

Following his fourth-place finish, Mr. Paul told a crowd in Nevada that he called to congratulate Mr. Romney on his win, while reminding them that he is still sitting in third place when it comes to the delegate count.

“That is what really counts, and we only really just started,” he said, sparking applause from the crowd.

But by that metric, Mr. Romney’s Florida win was huge, letting him sweep all 50 Sunshine State delegates, giving him 84, more than Mr. Gingrich (27), Mr. Paul (10) and Mr. Santorum (8) combined.

The win also eases some of the pain from Mr. Romney second-place primary finish here four years ago to Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who went on to win the party’s nomination, but who endorsed Mr. Romney this time. It also allows him to regroup from the 12-percentage-point drubbing he took from Mr. Gingrich in the South Carolina primary.

Speaking to reporters earlier in the day at his state campaign headquarters in Tampa, Mr. Romney said that he learned a lesson from his disappointing second-place showing in the Palmetto State — namely, that he couldn’t let attacks against his record go unanswered.

“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,” he said, attributing his resurgence here to the round-the-clock ad campaign that his camp waged against Mr. Gingrich since South Carolina.

Mr. Gingrich spent much of his time in recent days airing his frustration with what he called “falsehoods” in the Romney camp’s ads, which, among other things, raised questions about the ethics cloud that hung over him when he was pushed out as House speaker in 1999 and the $1.6 million his firm received doing consulting work on behalf of Freddie Mac, the government-backed mortgage giant that many conservatives blame in the housing-market bubble and collapse.

Mr. Gingrich also opened himself up to additional ridicule from the Romney campaign this week when he advocated for a moon base that could apply for statehood when its population reaches 13,000 people.

Mr. Romney said the proposal, made in the space-jobs heavy state of Florida, was the latest example of Mr. Gingrich pandering to voters with costly proposals pointing out his support for a new interstate highway and harbor dredging in South Carolina and a new VA hospital in New Hampshire.

According to a CNN exit poll, Mr. Romney’s greatest strength was among voters whose top priority was picking a nominee who could win in November. Such voters — who made up 45 percent of Tuesday’s electorate — backed Mr. Romney by 58 percent to 33 percent.

In addition, Mr. Romney and Mr. Gingrich fought to an effective draw with voters who support the tea party movement and among white evangelicals — two conservative-leaning blocs that Mr. Gingrich needed to win big. Instead, Mr. Romney won tea party supporters by 40 percent to 38 percent, while Mr. Gingrich finished ahead among evangelicals by 39 percent to 36 percent — both statistically insignificant margins.

After casting her vote at the Kate Jackson Community Center in historic Hyde Park, Margo Harrod told The Washington Times that she decided to back Mr. Romney as the man with the best chance to unseat the president.

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