Sunday, January 27, 2008

Home again

I'm done with my "forward reporting" from the state of Florida. Before I get too much credit for being "on the scene" during this pivotal time, please know that I didn't travel to FL to be "there" for the upcoming primary; I have family there, and it was just a good time to go visit. That it just happened to be the week before the big primary is strictly coincidence. I'm not THAT serious about this blogging stuff yet.

ALL RIGHT, my observations from the ground: I saw a few more Romney ads then I saw McCain ads; I barely saw a Giuliani ad at all. The Romney ads featured the candidate himself describing what he's done in the past; the McCain ads were split between a "he's been there" ad and a "whipping the crowd into a frenzy" ad; the Giuliani ads were not noteworthy at all.

Of the family I was visiting that divulged their intentions, I think there were three Romney votes and one McCain vote. I'd say the Romney voters were the most "in touch" with the race; the McCain voter literally said that his was the only recognized name on the ballot.

Now please keep in mind: they all voted on Friday, which is of course before Gov. Crist offered his endorsement of McCain.

Will that endorsement tilt a tight race in McCain's favor? I really don't know, but I will say this: the airwaves in Jacksonville are already lousy with Gov. Crist's face because of his support for amendment 1, a ballot initiative on the primary ticket. In fact, I saw more ads for amendment one than I did ads for all the GOP candidates COMBINED. Will the populace suffer Crist burnout? I don't know. . .but I do know it's much better to have his endorsement than to not have his endorsement.

I still feel, however, that this is Romney's primary to lose. It probably got tighter, so I no longer see a near double-digit victory for Romney, but I do think he'll win.

There is no more race for 2nd place, either. Rudy just never caught on in Florida (one of my family members asked "is he still in the race?); heck, he may finish behind Huckabee for 3rd.

Ultimately, I think that Rudy's stumbling in FL will mean ALMOST as much for McCain's camp as an outright victory on Tuesday--with Rudy out of the picture, it absolutely paves the way for huge success on Super Tuesday. Romney has already got to be thinking about where to go and how much time to spend at all those places next week; McCain doesn't have to do that because he's already so well recognized.

SO EVEN IF my prediction holds and Romney wins all the delegates in Florida on Tuesday, I still think he has an uphill climb.

Which, I would think, is something that he's not opposed to, given the history of success he touts so often. But can it be done in a week?

Ultimately, I think Romney's best strategy is to still be counted as "in the hunt" after SuperTuesday--not in the lead, but still within striking distance. When the clarity emerges on the 6th and there's really only 2 people standing (although Huckabee will be there, he just won't have a prayer to do anything 'cept play spoiler), then Romney can really focus on Virginia and MD for a week, and then Texas and Ohio for the rest of the month.

And no, I'm not totally counting out Giuliani--but unless someone gives him a shot of wakethehellup, I don't think he'll be left as viable after SuperTuesday.

3 months ago, who would've ever thought things would look so rosy for McCain? It's amazing what a little interference from the press will do for you.

Which, of course, gives me even more to worry about in the general election. The press won't be running interference for him anymore--they've got their own dog in the hunt.

As an aside: McCain's actions the last two days (the falsehoods uttered against Romney) have taken me from thinking he's the "most likely" to win a general election to thinking he's the "least likely". I used to think that his "independence" would serve well to get votes from the center of the political spectrum--a key block to control--while those of us further to the right dutifully checked his name to make sure a Republican (yes, even a McCain Republican) held on to the White House.

I don't think that anymore, though.

He'll either blow up against the attacks from the Clinton machine, or he'll be outstyled by Obama. Either way, I now agree with Hugh Hewitt and countless others who see McCain's nomination as nothing short of a final sunset before at least 4 years of darkness.

Two days to go.


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