McCain beats Romney to win Fla. primary, Giuliani may endrose McCain
Giuliani in discussions over possible McCain
endorsement, AP reports. (AP)
McCain beats Romney to win Fla. primary
By DAVID ESPO and LIZ SIDOTI, Associated Press Writers
1 minute ago
MIAMI - Sen. John McCain won a breakthrough triumph in
the Florida Republican primary Tuesday night, edging
past former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and seizing
precious campaign momentum for next week's string of
contests across 21 states.
Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani was running third,
and headed for the exits. Officials familiar with
events said his aides were in discussions with
McCain's advisers on a possible endorsement later in
"It shows one thing. I'm the conservative leader who
can unite the party," McCain said in a brief interview
with The Associated Press.
"It's a very significant boost but I think we've got a
tough week ahead and a lot of states to come."
The victory was worth 57 national convention delegates
for McCain, a winner-take-all's haul and the largest
single prize to date in the race.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee trailed, but told
supporters he would campaign on. Texas Rep. Ron Paul
was fifth, and last.
Returns from 64 percent of the state's precincts
showed McCain, the Arizona senator, with 36 percent of
the vote and Romney, the former governor of
Massachusetts, with 31 percent.
McCain's victory was his first-ever primary win in a
state that allowed only Republicans to vote. His
previous victories, in New Hampshire and South
Carolina this year, and in two states in 2000 came in
elections open to independents. He campaigned with the
support of the state's two top Republican elected
officials, Gov. Charlie Crist and Sen. Mel Martinez.
Romney's only primary win so far was in Michigan, a
state where he grew up and claimed a home-field
advantage. He also has caucus victories to his credit
in Wyoming and Nevada.
A survey of voters as they left their polling places
showed the economy was the top issue for nearly half
the Republican electorate. McCain led his rival among
those voters, blunting Romney's weeklong effort to
persuade Floridians that his background as a
businessman made him best-suited for heading off a
McCain also was benefiting from the support of
self-described moderates, as well as older voters and
Hispanics. Giuliani ran second among Latino voters,
according to preliminary exit poll data.
Romney was favored by voters opposed to abortion and
to easing the path to citizenship for illegal
About 40 percent of self-described conservatives
supported him, as well, compared to about 25 percent
The poll was conducted by Edison Media Research and
Mitofsky International for The Associated Press and
the television networks.
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton won the Democratic race,
an event that drew no campaigning by any of the
contenders and awarded no delegates to the winner.
The Democratic primary was controversial by its very
existence, an act of defiance against national party
officials who wanted it held later in the year.
Even so, Clinton sought to emphasize her performance
in the state, holding a rally as the polls were
She challenged Barack Obama to agree to seat the
delegates on the basis of the night's vote, but he
demurred, saying he would abide by an agreement all
Democratic candidates had made months ago.
"Those decisions will be made after the nomination,
not before," Obama told reporters Tuesday on a plane
from Washington to Kansas. "Obviously, I care a lot
about the people in Michigan and a lot about the
people in Florida. And I want their votes in the
general election. We'll be actively campaigning for
Romney began the evening with 59 Republican delegates,
to 36 for McCain and 40 for Huckabee. Giuliani had
No matter the winner, there was no time to rest. There
are 21 GOP contests on the ballot on Feb. 5, with
1,023 delegates at stake.
McCain and Romney clashed early and often, in personal
appearances and paid television advertising, in a
bruising week of campaigning in Florida.
Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, said his
career as a private businessman made him perfectly
suited to sit in the Oval Office with a recession
looming. Sen. McCain argued he knew his economics well
enough, and that his career in the military and in
Congress made him the man to steer the country in an
age of terrorism.
By the campaign's final hours, the two men hurled
insults at one another, each saying the other hoped to
travel a liberal road to the presidential nomination
in a party of conservatives.
Romney attacked McCain for his signature legislation
to reduce the role of money in politics, for his
position on immigration and for his support of an
energy bill that he said would have driven up consumer
"If you ask people, 'look at the three things Senator
McCain has done as a senator,' if you want that kind
of a liberal Democrat course as president, then you
can vote for him," Romney told campaign workers. "But
those three pieces of legislation, those aren't
conservative, those aren't Republican, those are not
the kind of leadership that we need as we go forward."
McCain had a ready reply. "On every one of the issues
he has attacked us on, Mitt Romney was for it before
he was against it," he said. "The truth is, Mitt
Romney was a liberal governor of Massachusetts who
raised taxes, imposed with Ted Kennedy a big
government mandate health care plan that is now a
quarter of a billion dollars in the red, and managed
his state's economy incompetently, leaving
Massachusetts with less job growth than 46 other
That wasn't all, either.
McCain aired radio commercials criticizing Romney, and
his campaign Web site has an ad superimposing Romney's
face on the image of a windsurfing Sen. John Kerry,
the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee.
The Romney campaign also reported numerous negative
phone calls, accusing him incorrectly of supporting
taxpayer-funded abortions, opposing President Bush's
tax cuts and favoring direct talks with Cuban leader
The McCain campaign said it was not responsible for