John McCain's win last night in the Florida primary represents a huge development in the Republican presidential race. A campaign that just two weeks ago was a muddle of weak candidates now has a clear front runner.
Two developments in particular drove his victory. One was the collapse of Rudy Giuliani, who was competing for the same pool of moderate voters. The other was the surprise endorsement from Florida's immensely popular governor Charlie Crist.
Mitt Romney still has a chance in the vast cross country Feb 5--with his money, his focus on the hot issue of the economy, and contests in his home base of the Northeast. His debate with John McCain at the Reagan library here in Southern California tonight will be an indicator of his strategy.
But the media attention John McCain now gets as the hot candidate can offset those advantages. He'll get the endorsement of Rudy Giuliani today, which will help in the Northeast and in California.
And in the conservative southern states that vote on Feb 5, Romney faces resistance from the continued campaign of Mike Huckabee and lingering unease about his Mormon faith.
Florida was not a big event on the Democratic side--major campaigns didn't contest the state because no delegates were at stake. Hillary Clinton is trying to capitalize on receiving more votes, and she leads in most of the state that vote on Feb 5. But Barack Obama succeeded in generating momentum with his weekend South Carolina win and endorsements from Ted and Caroline Kennedy.