Posted by: Matt Compton | January 28, 2008

McCain and Florida

On Friday, I wrote a post for The Democratic Strategist where I laid out my case against John McCain’s front runner status.

Everything I said then is still true today. McCain still absolutely has to show that he can convince a majority of conservatives to vote for him if he wants to win the Republican nomination for president.

But over the weekend, McCain received endorsements from Sen. Mel Martinez and Gov. Charlie Crist. Endorsements do not always lead to votes, but it’s fairly easy to see how the support of these two men will help in Florida.

Martinez is Cuban-American and that should help McCain with that crucial constituency in the central part of the state. Prior to receiving this nod, he had already been endorsed by all three Cuban-American members of Florida’s U.S. House delegation. McCain has been campaigning in the Cuban community with a narrative about his own time as a prisoner in a Communist country, and that should have some appeal.

Crist is popular everywhere every where in the state. He’s got one of the highest approval ratings of any governor in the country. His backing of McCain should help with rank and file GOP voters. But he’s widely viewed as a moderate, and accordingly shouldn’t help McCain with self-described conservatives.

As others have noted, Rudy Giuliani was banking on a Crist endorsement to put the wind back in the sails of his flagging campaign. Obviously this is another blow, and the mayor can only hope pull a miracle out of all those early votes and absentee ballots that were cast before the start of the year.

Jeb Bush is the one major Florida political figure who has so far stayed quiet. His son, Jeb Bush Jr., has endorsed Mitt Romney, and most observers believe that is where the former governor’s heart is as well. If he were to make a public statement of support for Romney, that would no doubt go a long way toward cutting into McCain’s current momentum.

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