Thursday, January 31, 2008

January 29: Florida

McCain 36
Romney 31
Giuliani 15*
Huckabee 14
Paul 3
Clinton 51
Obama 33
Edwards 14*

*subsequently dropped out of the race.

The Republican nomination is John McCain's to lose, a state of affairs that has left a lot of Republicans very unhappy. They do have a point: McCain isn't winning greater percentages of the vote than he did in 2000. In South Carolina, he actually won less! He's winning because the right wing of the Republican Party couldn't decide whether they wanted Huckabee, Romney, Giuliani, or Thompson. Even with Thompson out of the race, the split between the three "respectable" candidates allowed McCain to prevail.

For the first time since New Hampshire, McCain prevailed over Mitt Romney in an all-out battle. Romney still has plenty of money, but McCain has even more momentum. Romney needs to make a major dent into McCain's support on Super Tuesday, or else the Republicans will have a nominee before the Democrats (who'da thunk it?)

Rudy Giuliani staked everything on Florida; after finishing well behind both McCain and Romney, he wisely cut his losses. Mike Huckabee is in trouble after finishing second in South Carolina and fourth in Florida, both states he had hoped to win; he is not attracting voters beyond his evangelical Christian base. Ron Paul's supporters are certainly principled, but they are not at all powerful.

Just as in Michigan, the Democratic primary in Florida was a beauty contest. The Democratic National Committee stripped Florida of its delegates, and neither of the three contenders did much campaigning there. Hillary still outpolled Barack Obama by a significant margin; given that Florida is full of senior citizens and a lot of votes were cast by mail weeks in advance, Obama ought not to be too worried.

John Edwards, after trailing badly behind Clinton and Obama for the third consecutive primary, decided not to hang on any longer. This clears the field for one of the most intriguing political contests in American history - the wife of a former president against a black man with almost no ties to the current people in power. Obama needs to (at least) win the California primary and scare Hillary in New York for his challenge to remain viable.

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