Given that the Florida Republican primary was closed to registered Republicans, I had assumed that if John McCain won the contest, he would so so by the narrowest of margins. Instead, he won by a comfortable margin, besting Mitt Romney by five points. My man Rudy trailed significantly.
The maverick Arizona Senator showed that he could win in a GOP-only primary. No small feat.
With his poor showing in the Sunshine State, a number of news outlets are reporting that the former New York City Mayor will be quitting the race and endorsing “his friendliest rival, John McCain.” I guess that answers the question Bruce posed earlier this month about the wisdom of Giuliani’s strategy.
Now that Giuliani is no longer a candidate, I am officially undecided in the race.
While I admire Senator McCain’s strong commitment to winning the War on Terror and his distinguished service in the United States Navy and his courage, indeed, heroism as a Prisoner of War, I am concerned about the number of times he bucked the GOP, merely at times (it seemed) to prove that he was a maverick. And I think some of his attacks on Mitt Romney, his chief rival for the GOP nomination, have been unfair, particularly his claim that the former Bay State Governor favored a “secret timetable for U.S. soldiers to withdraw” from Iraq.
But, he has shown an ability to appeal to independents and would be a strong challenger to Mrs. Clinton in the fall.
While I appreciate Romney’s conservative record and thought he looked presidential in the one debate I watched for any length of time, he has so far been unable to gain the support among the GOP rank-and-file that he has enjoyable among conservative leaders and pundits. If, despite their backing and his bank account, he can’t make a strong showing in the GOP contests, I fear he will not fare well in the fall.
So, I’m undecided. On the one hand, I see a Republican who can reach out to Independents, but who has upset the party’s base. On the other, I see one who has appealed to that base, but hasn’t shown a great ability to generate a large turnout.
If John McCain win my enthusiastic support, he needs to reach out to conservatives, stop antagonizing the party’s base and show more grace in taking on his chief rival. And Mitt Romney needs show a little more passion on the campaign trail.
John McCain is now the frontrunner for the GOP nomination. But, if he wishes to united the party behind him, he’s going to have to reach out to conservatives, to try to appear on Rush Limbaugh’s and Hugh Hewitt’s talk shows and meet with the editors of the National Review.
UPDATE: Oh, and the good news it that even with Fred Thompson out of the race, Mike Huckabee came in fourth, behind even the former NYC Mayor — in a Southern state. Looks like his campaign is over, but there is a Senate seat in Arkansas that could use a Republican candidate. . . .
UP-UPDATE: Just reading the symposium on National Review about what McCain could “do to rally conservatives.” As usual, Victor Davis Hanson offers the soundest advice. Check it out! (Via Hugh Hewitt).
UP-UP-UPDATE: It’s official. Giuliani is backing McCain. Delighted both men recognize the importance of Ronald Reagan by making the announcement at his library.