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29 Jan 2008 14:37
Rudy Giuliani is expected to throw his weight behind John McCain’s campaign for the Republican nomination after the senator for Arizona won a convincing victory in the Florida primary to become the clear front runner.
McCain now goes into next week’s Super Tuesday contest with huge momentum behind him after beating Mitt Romney in the biggest primary so far.
Giuliani’s hopes of becoming the Republican candidate were killed off by coming in third place. He is expected to drop his campaign on Wednesday and endorse McCain in a move which will boost the former prisoner of war’s chances in New York and New Jersey.
With 95% of the vote in McCain had 36% , Romney 31%, and Giuliani, who was the Republican favourite throughout most of last year, lagging well behind on 15%.
Mike Huckabee, who said he would fight on, was on 13%.
At a party to celebrate his victory, McCain said: “Our victory may not have reached landslide proportions but it is sweet nonetheless.”
McCain, the senator for Arizona, emerged from the often chaotic Republican field to establish himself in the lead.
Giuliani, conceding defeat at a party in Florida, said he was proud to have fought a “positive” campaign but gave no hint of his intentions.
Romney, who also conceded the primary to McCain, devoted a speech to supporters in St Petersburg, Florida, to pointing up the differences between him and McCain, mainly over economic experience. “I have spent my entire life in the economy. The economy is in my DNA,” he said.
The impending economic recession was the biggest issue in the Florida, one on which McCain is weak on.
The last few days of the campaign in Florida, the fourth most populous state in the country, were the most acrimonious yet in the Republican race, with Romney, trying to win over social conservatives, labelling McCain as a “liberal democrat” and inexperienced in economics, the biggest election issue. McCain responded by claiming Romney had “flipflopped” over the Iraq war.
McCain’s win provides him with an enormous advantage going into next week’s Super Tuesday contest, in which about half the country will be eligble to vote.
Romney, with millions of a personal fortune behind him, will attempt to revive his campaign over the next week with one of the biggest advertising blitzes in history.
Tuesday night was a humiliation for Giuliani, who invested all his time and effort into Florida and ignored the other early contests.
He is scheduled to take part in a Republican televised debate in California on Wednesday night and his campaign manager, Mike Duhaime, insisted he still intended to participate.
Giuiani adopted an unconventional strategy for the early caucuses and primaries which turned out to be a catastrophic gamble. Unlike his rivals, he chose to ignore the traditional campaign schedule that begins with Iowa and continues through New Hampshire and South Carolina.
The former New York mayor had anticipated taking Florida, helped by the large number of ex-residents from that city who retired to the state, and then going on to win New York, New Jersey and California on Super Tuesday, February 5.
But by the time his rivals arrived in Florida ten days ago from a highly-competitive contest in South Carolina, they had built up too much momentum and gained lots of media exposure denied to Giuliani sitting waiting for them in Florida.
Huckabee, the Baptist pastor and surprise winner of Iowa, also did badly.
He could not compete in terms of the money needed for ads in such a huge state and was not even in Florida to hear the results, instead watching them on television in St Louis, Missouri, one of the Super Tuesday states.
He signalled at a meeting with supporters that he would fight it out on Super Tuesday in the mainly southern states where he can exploit his appeal among Christian evangelicals. “This story is not close to being over,” he said.
Romney and McCain had been battling it out for the last few days, travelling round the huge state by plane, stopping for short campaign rallies.
McCain won New Hampshire on January 8 and South Carolina on January 19, both of them hotly contested and both part of the traditional track to the Republican nomination. Romney took Wyoming, Michigan and Nevada, none of them regarded as serious contests by most Republicans.
In the Democratic primary, a largely meaningless contest because the candidates did not campaign there, exit polls predicted Hillary Clinton would take 48%, Barack Obama 29% and John Edwards 14%.
Clinton began last Friday to insist that the primary does in fact matter. The Democratic national committee last year stripped Florida of its all-important delegates—who would vote in the party’s summer convention for the Democratic presidential nominee—because it held its primary before February 5.
Clinton said she wants the delegates reinstated while Obama is opposed. - Guardian Newspapers Limited 2008
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