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Romney in the driver's seat as Florida heads to polls

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

(Reuters) - Florida's Republican voters go to the polls on Tuesday in a high-stakes presidential primary election, with former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney holding a commanding double-digit lead in polls over rival Newt Gingrich.

Florida is the largest state to hold a presidential primary so far this year and a Romney victory would give him a big boost in the state-by-state battle to decide who will face President Barack Obama in the November election.

Polls opened at 7 a.m. and close at 7 p.m. local time. Most of the state is on Eastern Time (plus 5 hours GMT), except the western Panhandle region, which is on Central Time and where polls will close an hour later.

Gingrich, a former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, was riding high just 10 days ago after an upset win in South Carolina's January 21 primary and led in Florida polls as recently as early last week.

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