Carol Platt Liebau: McCain Wins Florida

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

McCain Wins Florida

John McCain has won Florida -- where independents aren't permitted to vote in teh primary. It's an important win for him, and at this point, it looks like he's done it by a 5% margin, which is convincing.

For Romney and his supporters like me (and for those who, also like me, are not McCain fans), this one hurts. It gives McCain a serious bounce going into Super Tuesday next week. If Giuliani had stayed in the race, there was some hope for Romney that -- with Huckabee fading -- Giuliani and McCain would split the northeastern moderate vote.

But both the tone of his speech tonight and other reports suggest that Giuliani is probably going to endorse McCain later this week. That means that McCain can probably count on having most of the northeastern moderates to himself next week. Now, it will be up to the conservatives who supported Huckabee to decide whether they want to stick with their man, and leave John McCain as the party's nominee -- despite his position on taxes, immigration, campaign finance, global warming and much else. And up to Huckabee himself as to whether he wants to stay in the race and continue to siphon conservatives from Romney, hoping that the Romney double-teaming tango he and McCain have performed will result in his walzing into the #2 spot if McCain's at the top of the ticket.

Look, it's still a long way from over. Romney could bounce back and surprise everyone, especially if McCain slips and reveals some of the legendary temper and other personality problems so well known to his colleagues in the Senate. The MSM could start treating McCain like the clear frontrunner that he is, and give him a little of the brass knuckle treatment that, so far, has seemed reserved for Rudy and Romney.

It now seems fair to characterize Mitt Romney as the underdog. What will be interesting (and revealing) is whether John McCain actually starts to make real efforts to show that he could unify the Republican Party -- conservatives and all -- or whether he'll hold grudges and send the signal that he'll try to run a general election campaign that tacks to the middle, leaving a substantial portion of his base disaffected and angry.

Is it possible that Republican voters could actually agree with The New York Times about who's the best choice for their party?


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