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Few regrets among Rick Santorum's Florida faithful

January 31, 2012|By Alana Semuels
  • Far from Florida, Rick Santorum greets supporters during a campaign stop in Lone Tree, Colo.
Far from Florida, Rick Santorum greets supporters during a campaign stop… (Ed Andrieski / Associated…)

Reporting from Fort Lauderdale, Fla. — When last we checked, Rick Santorum was polling at about 13% in Florida and had already left the state for potentially greener pastures in Colorado and Nevada. But in Fort Lauderdale and Miami, Santorum's supporters turned out anyway, even though they said they knew their candidate wouldn't win.

Some said they couldn't stand to vote for anyone else after weeks of negative advertising by the two leading Florida contenders, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, trashing each other's reputations and biographies.

The Fort Lauderdale Tea Party, which bills itself as the longest-running tea party group in the nation, has supported Santorum from the start, said co-founder Danita Kilcullen.

"If every single person I hear say he can't win votes for him, I tell you, he might win," Kilcullen said. "He's clean, he's believeable. That's what a lot of people like about him." A recent internal vote of 65 members of the group showed a majority supported Santorum.

At a Fort Lauderdale polling place near the street corner where more than 100 tea party supporters show up every Saturday to wave signs, Julie and Lee Donahue said they decided to vote for Santorum because they were so sick of the negative advertising that confronted them every time they turned on the TV.

"He hasn't been bad-mouthing his opponents," Lee Donahue, a retiree originally from Pennsylvania, said about Santorum. "If you listen to the ads, you can't vote for anyone else, because they're supposedly all crooks."

In Miami, Alex Goicouria, 26, said he'd cast his vote for Santorum too.

"I know he's not going to win, but I don't feel right not voting for him," said Goicouria, 26, who works for his family's air conditioning business.

Santorum left Florida when his daughter Bella was hospitalized, canceling events on Sunday, although his daughter Elizabeth subbed in for him. On Monday, he was off to Missouri, Minnesota, Nevada and Colorado. His campaign recently released television advertisements it would run in Nevada and Colorado – they appear to be attack ads.

Although Santorum recently told CNN's John King that polls showed him neck in neck with Gingrich and Romney in Missouri, he lags in polls in most upcoming states.

That could be a barrier to recruiting voters such as Dawn Doyle, a retired management consultant in Fort Lauderdale who said she was looking for "someone who's going to get the economy back on track, and who has a moral conscience." She voted for Romney, although Santorum was her first choice.

"If I thought Rick Santorum had a chance, I'd vote for him," she said.

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