Delegate count gives Romney lead after Florida primary

Just seconds after the polls closed Tuesday, it was projected Mitt Romney won the Florida primary, Newt Gingrich came in second, Rick Santorum third and Ron Paul fourth, that's according to ABC News.

Romney appeared to win most of the state's southern and central region, while Gingrich's support was concentrated in the north.

"A competitive primary does not divide us. It prepares us," Romney said to cheers. "And when we gather here in Tampa seven months from now for our convention, ours will be a united party with a winning ticket for America."

As each primary unfolds, the focus now goes to the delegate count. There are 2,286 delegates. A candidate must accumulate 1,144 delegate votes to win.

Delegates are individuals chosen to represent their state at their political party's convention, and are the ones who eventually determine the nominee.

Holley Tankersley, Associate Dean of Political Science at Coastal Carolina University. says it will be difficult for other candidates to compete with Romney's momentum, and Florida's delegate allocation is a big win for Romney.

"It's a winner take all system. The state is the one who decides how the delegates are allocated," she explains.

South Carolina has a proportional delegate system. So while Gingrich won the majority with 40.43% of the vote, he only won 23 of South Carolina's 25 delegates. Romney won two delegates by winning the first Congressional district. Going into Florida, Gingrich was ahead with 23 delegates. Romney had 21. Santorum had 13. Paul had 3.

But don't count the former Speaker of the House out yet.

"Gingrich will quite possibly stay in through the summer," Tankersly said.

Or at least through Super Tuesday which is March 6th. That day, 11 states will vote and 466 delegates will be up for grabs.