Saturday, January 26, 2008

Romney Advances In GOP Florida Campaign

The withdrawal from the race for the GOP presidential nomination of former Sen. Fred Thompson of Tennessee, and the decision of former Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas to restrict his campaigning in Florida, in effect removes from the Florida equation the Southerners, and may have left former Gov. Mitt Romney in a stronger position than he appeared even last week.

The reasons are several fold. For one thing, former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani continues to be present in the race, even if his chances of victory are greatly diminished, and Giuliani, to the extent he is successful, appeals to the same security-oriented votes that would otherwise go to Sen. John McCain.

Second, there had been speculation that when he got out Thompson would endorse McCain, but in the actual event he didn't.

Third, the trend toward the economy becoming a bigger, perhaps the decisive issue, in the presidential campaign favors Romney. He is a businessman who has much more experience and interest in economic issues than McCain, not only from his governorship but from the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics.

And fourth, Florida has changed. It is now the fourth most populous state in the Union, and its Northeastern transplants may tend to favor the former governor of Massachusetts than a senator from Arizona and his image as a free-speaking Westerner.

Some polls have been showing Romney leading McCain in Florida, and he is outspending McCain there. So, under these circumstances, I wonder whether Romney should not be considered the favorite in next Tuesday's primary.

McCain, of course, is making an appeal to the large military or ex-military population in Florida, he has some endorsements, such as Sen. Mel Martinez, from the Cuban community in the state, and he may inherit some of Huckabee's evangelicals who fear Romney as a Mormon. After all, McCain, even in a race in which Huckabee was making an effort, in South Carolina, still picked up a fair proportion of the evangelical vote.

Also, Saturday night, Florida's popular Republican governor Charles Crisp endorsed McCain. That may help him substantially.

Still, I tend to think Romney may get a boost toward Super Tuesday, the primaries in 22 states on Feb. 5, by winning Florida. McCain is the most admirable candidate for his tremendous character, but Florida is a pretty hardboiled state. It may not react positively to his character.

Despite the fact that he has become detested by McCain and the other Republican candidates, Romney has proven both his resilience in this race, and his willingness to spend his own fortune to be successful. At the moment, he has actually won more states than McCain -- Michigan, Wyoming and Nevada. McCain has won the primaries in New Hampshire and South Carolina.

So, we'll see. Despite the failure of the polls, incidentally, to predict the winner of the Democratic primary in New Hampshire, I think they may be right about Obama winning today's Democratic race in South Carolina. As the Clintons and Sen. Barack Obama have sniped away at each other in that campaign, some white support may have drained away from Sen. Hillary Clinton to former Sen. John Edwards. For reasons stated yesterday, the Clinton may actually hope for a black bloc vote for Obama in South Carolina, because that could cause a certain backlash against Obama among white voiters on Super Tuesday.

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The New York Times carried a short story in its Business section yesterday reporting that Rupert Murdoch, who had talked about opening the Wall Street Journal Web site to all comers free of charge, now is saying that much of the Web site's content will continue to only be available to paying subscribers.

Obviously, this represents a judgment that more can be raised from the Internet by a speciality paper like the Journal from both charging subscribers and selling advertising, than just by selling advertising, even though a free Web site would be more widely read.

This bears watching for its effect on other newspaper Web sites. Earlier, however, the New York Times moved to an entirely free Web site.

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