Florida has played an important role in the last several presidential elections, and last night, it may have helped crown the Republican nominee and boosted Hillary Clinton.
Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.) and Mitt Romney faced off in a bitter battle over the last week. McCain managed to play up his strengths on national defense and his electability, and downplay his weakness on economic matters to score the victory. With 99% of the precincts reporting, McCain had 36% of the vote to Romney's 31%. McCain picked up 57 delegates in the winner-take-all primary, which pushed him ahead of Romney into the delegate lead.
The win was sweet for McCain as he noted: "Everyone has been telling me how this was a Republican-only primary." McCain's detractors had pointed out that he had won both New Hampshire and South Carolina with the help of Democrats and Independents.
McCain should get another boost. Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani came in a distant third in the race and is widely expected to pull out off the race today. Reports from
MSNBC have Giuliani endorsing McCain today in California.
The Republicans will hold their final debate before Super Tuesday tonight at the Reagan Library in California. Romney will need to score a big win to stop McCain's momentum.
On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton won the vote by a landslide. She collected 50% of the vote to 33% for Barack Obama and 14% for John Edwards. Clinton was the only candidate to appear in Florida last night.
According to a ruling by the Democratic Party, Florida lost its delegates by moving its primary ahead of Feb. 5. All the Democratic candidates had pledged not to campaign here. But Clinton's campaign in recent days has been making a push to have both the delegates of Michigan and Florida reinstated -- where she has won both contests.
DNC official Donna Brazile, appearing last night on
, said that Florida would need to go through a process to legitimize its delegates. This would include holding state-wide caucuses to choose delegates and then appeal to the party's convention committee to request reinstatement. The Party will face a challenge if it argues to disenfranchise voters from these states.
The Democrats have a debate planned for Thursday night in California, and I would expect the fireworks to continue between Clinton and Obama.