This was a really big night for McCain and an interesting night for the GOP. Florida is a closed primary state, so McCain managed to win among registered Republicans, a goal that's escaped him thus far. It's also a winner-take-all state, so for once it's appropriate that the media focus on the plurality winner.
It's interesting to look at the issue breakdowns in the exit polls. A full 45% of GOP voters said that the economy was their number one concern -- a huge shift from just a few months ago. The old speculation was that voters concerned about the economy would vote for Romney, a successful business leader, rather than McCain, whose area of expertise is considered military in nature. In fact, economy voters preferred McCain to Romney 38-32.
On top of this, Giuliani is apparently withdrawing tomorrow and endorsing McCain. Giuliani obviously sucks as a campaigner, but he still had 15 percent of the voters in his corner, and some of them might listen to that endorsement. (Still, the exit polls show that Giuliani voters would have leaned more toward Romney than McCain if Giuliani hadn't been on the ballot.)
So yes, I've been predicting a Romney nomination, and this puts a bleaker face on that. One plus for Romney was that he won tonight among self-described conservatives 37-27. The problem is that, even among registered Republicans, not everyone is conservative. 39% of those who voted in today's GOP primary described themselves as moderate or liberal. It's been a tough few years for conservatives. Not everyone's eager to describe themselves as such.
Say I'm a McCain supporter who sees Rudy for what he is -- mightn't I now shift to Romney?
Would you really vote against your preferred candidate just because you don't like one of his endorsers?
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