With about one third of the vote counted, the Florida primary is too close to call officially. However, McCain leads by about 20,000 votes and two percentage points. Perhaps more signifcantly, Michael Barone, having looked at the vote in two key counties, seems to think the tea leaves point in favor of McCain. In particular, Romney apparently failed to obtain the margin he probably needs in the Orlando area.
It may be, as I suggested Saturday night, that Gov. Crist’s endorsement threw a dead-even race McCain’s way. But that’s just speculation at this point.
On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton is the winner by what looks like a 20 percentage point margin (50-30 at this point). She’s winning on the strength of not just white women but also Hispanic and Jewish voters. These two groups make up about 20 percent of the Democratic vote in Florida. They have not been heard from much in prior primaries (except Hispanics in Nevada), but they’re about to come into play in some crucial states.
To be sure, the Democratic candidates didn’t campaign in Florida. But they are only going to be able to conduct limited campaigning in other states between now and next Tuesday.
UPDATE: Now it really looks like McCain’s night. The Romney campaign told Fox News that a few weeks ago Romney was 10 points down and that, with the Crist and Martinez endorsements, McCain should be further ahead. That’s loser talk.
JOHN adds: Whatever happens, McCain and Romney will duke it out a week from Tuesday. On the other hand, it looks as though Giuliani may drop out tonight. If that happens, we’re down to McCain and Romney, with Huckabee as a niche player. Personally, I’m sorry to see the field winnowed down as much as it has been–assuming that Giuliani drops out–before Super Tuesday.
MORE: Fox News just called Florida for McCain.
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