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Gingrich vowing to continue battle

Front-runner Mitt Romney predicted victory in the pivotal Florida primary, but his chief rival Newt Gingrich vowed to stay in the race for the Republican presidential nomination until the party's national convention this summer even if he loses Tuesday's vote.

Polls of Republican voters in Florida show Mr Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, with a single digit lead over Mr Gingrich in what has essentially become a two-man race for the nomination to face President Barack Obama in the November election.

Mr Gingrich, the former speaker of the House of Representatives, surged ahead of Mr Romney in the Florida polls just after his strong upset victory in last weekend's South Carolina.

But Mr Romney, who has a huge organisational and financial edge over his rival, appears to have blunted Mr Gingrich's momentum with stronger-than-expected performances in two Florida debates this past week.

Mr Gingrich has staked his presidential bid on the idea that he is best positioned to defeat Mr Obama because he can offer a distinctly conservative alternative to the President compared to Mr Romney, whom he has labelled a "Massachusetts moderate" for past positions supporting gay and abortion rights.

Mr Romney and his backers - including many in the Republican Party's establishment wing - are trying to stoke doubts about Mr Gingrich's electability by highlighting what they consider his liabilities - consulting contracts and ethics investigations among them.

They are suggesting that more baggage could emerge in the general election campaign.

As the two rivals made their appeals to Hispanic, Jewish and social and fiscal conservative voters, veterans of the armed forces and others, all known indicators pointed to a good day for Mr Romney in the primary.

The winner of the Florida primary gains all 50 of the state's delegates to the Republican convention.

Mr Romney and his allies held a 3-1 advantage in money spent on television advertising in the race's final days.

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