As has previously been the case, a RealClearPolitics composite poll has once again proven to be an accurate predictor of a primary result. John McCain, considered a "Manchurian candidate" by many of his detractors, defeated Mitt Romney by a small but clear-cut margin in the Florida Republican primary.
Here's how the RealClearPolitics composite poll originally called it:
John McCain: 30.7
Mitt Romney: 30.1
Rudy Giuliani: 14.7
Mike Huckabee: 12.9
Ron Paul: 3.6
Here's the Republican delegate count coming in to the primary, according to RealClearPolitics (which is the standard I now use):
Mitt Romney: 59
Mike Huckabee: 40
John McCain: 36
Ron Paul: 4
Rudy Giuliani: 1
And here are the results from the Republican side, via ABC News, which shows McCain the winner with 99% of the vote counted:
Candidate, Votes, Vote %
McCain: 693,425, 36%
Romney: 598,152, 31%
Giuliani: 281,755, 15%
Huckabee: 259,703, 14%
Paul: 62,060, 3%
Thompson: 22,287, 1%
Hunter: 2,787, LT 1%
Note that Thompson and Hunter bowed out of the race too late for their names to be deleted from the ballot. Since Florida is a winner-take-all state, this means McCain takes all 57 delegates and opens up a commanding delegate lead on Romney, 93 to 59. Florida exit poll highlights HERE.
As a result, John McCain must now be considered the favorite to capture the Republican presidential nomination.
And stacking the deck further in McCain's favor is the possibility that not only will Rudy Giuliani withdraw from the presidential race, but that he will endorse McCain. Giuliani's supporters most likely would have been more inclined to support McCain than Romney anyway, but if Giuliani endorses McCain, that makes it a dead certainty.
And if that's not enough, guess what? John McCain has opened up significant leads in a number of February 5th Super Tuesday states. A number of then have already been polling regularly. Here are poll results from some of them:
New York: RealClearPolitics composite shows McCain 31.7, Giuliani 22.5, Romney 13.7, Huckabee 9.8. Romney can't win here.
New Jersey: RealClearPolitics composite shows McCain 29.0, Giuliani 26.0, Romney 11.0, Huckabee 11.0, Paul 5.7. Giuliani could pull it out. Romney can't win here.
California: RealClearPolitics composite shows McCain 31.2, Romney 22.3, Huckabee 11.5, Giuliani 11.0, Paul 5.2. Romney may have a chance here, but he's a distinct underdog.
RealClearPolitics has no composite polls for any other states at this time. We turn to Rasmussen for two other states:
Missouri: Rasmussen Jan. 25 shows Huckabee 27%, McCain 26%, Romney 18%, Giuliani 7%, Paul 5%. Romney unlikely to win here.
Alabama: Rasmussen Jan. 25 shows Huckabee 27%, McCain 27%, Romney 15%, Giuliani 8%, Paul 3%. Romney can't win here.
The bottom line - while John McCain is competitive in all five states listed above, Mitt Romney is clearly not competitive in four of them, and only partially competitive in California. To become more competitive in California may require Romney to start pandering to Hispanics. And since McCain has been nicknamed, at different times, "McAmnesty" or "Amnesty John", reflecting his desire to provide a "path to citizenship" for illegals and a "guest worker program" for Mexican nationals, McCain would tend to own the Hispanic vote in California. This is yet another reason why John McCain must now be considered a clear favorite.
Of course, there are other variables. Mitt Romney has Utah in his back pocket - we don't need a poll to confirm that. But Huckabee could conceivably take Alaska, although Ron Paul won the only semi-authoritative poll taken there. Huckabee has Arkansas in his back pocket. And there are still 21 states which will hold later primaries or caucuses.
Does this mean Mitt Romney should bow out of the campaign? Absolutely not. Even if he doesn't do well on Super Tuesday, there are still 21 more states to go. In addition, there's Romney's personal war chest, which no other candidate can match. Ron Paul is the only other Republican candidate to be reasonably cash-flush. The Huckabee campaign is said to have money problems. And with the field narrowing, Ron Paul could start racking up some double-digit finishes. So Romney's campaign, while a bit colic, is a long way from being comatose.
And looking at his post-primary press release, Mitt Romney sounds like he is far from finished. He's still thinking and talking like a future President. In St. Petersburg, Florida, Romney told a disheartened crowd of hundreds that although he shared their disappointment, he vowed to keep fighting for delegates to the Republican National Convention. Minutes after congratulating McCain, Romney pressed ahead with his case against the longtime Arizona senator, saying it was "time for the politicians to leave Washington and for the citizens to take over."
"Washington is fundamentally broken," he said. "We're not going to change Washington by sending the same people back just to sit in different chairs." Romney's wife, Ann, looking somber in a black suit, called the Florida defeat "a send-off point, not an end." Romney will be spending his weekend in Salt Lake, attending the funeral of the late LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley.
Mike Huckabee was also upbeat about the future after his fourth-place finish. He told a crowd that he expects to do well in Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Arkansaa, Alabama, and Georgia on February 5th. He gives no sign that his campaign is in any trouble or that he's wavering in his commitment to press on, despite persistent rumours that his campaign is running out of money.
While the mainstream media is virtually ignoring the Ron Paul campaign, Point-Spreads.com had a few words to say about it. The tone of John McCain's Florida Primary victory speech was very humbling with the Senator acknowledging each of of the Republican Presidential Candidates individually except Ron Paul. Perhaps McCain is upset with the Texas Congressman for stumping him with an economic question in the Florida Debate last week.
"Ron Paul won all the debates," stated Rudy Guiliani in his speech conceding defeat in the Florida Primary to John McCain. "Government works best when it empowers people to take responsibilities for their own lives.”
Point-Spreads.com also points out that although Ron Paul has yet to win a primary, his second-place finish in the Nevada Caucus followed by his second place in the Louisiana Caucus gave his campaign a boost. Paul’s supporters believe the Texas Congressman will do well in the Maine Primary. Republican Presidential hopefuls like Huckabee do not have the dough to survive that far beyond Super Tuesday giving Paul a nice advantage to outlast the other lower tiered candidates and gobble up some of their support once they leave the race.
Point-spreads.com also believes that Ron Paul should be able to grab some of Guiliani voters and Hucksters once Mike drops out of the race after Super Tuesday. Mike Huckabee debuted Ron Paul-inspired "abolish the IRS” mantra in his Florida Primary commercials which we expect to see in other states on Super Tuesday.
Oh, by the way, there was a Democratic primary, too. No slight intended to Democratic readers, but it was anticlimatic, as Hillary Clinton repaid Barrack Obama for the smackdown she took from him in South Carolina by giving him a smackdown in Florida, 50% to 33%. Apparently Florida Democratic voters don't share South Carolina's taste for chocolate. However, there was one tiny, teensy little problem - Hillary won zero delegates. That's because the DNC stripped Florida of all its delegates earlier. That's why we call Hillary's victory a Pyrrhic victory. But it serves to remind Barrack Obama that he's still very much the junior partner in this race, and polls from other states indicate an impressive haul for Hillary on Super Tuesday. John Edwards got 14% of the vote, but his presence is becoming increasingly anecdotal.