Senator Hillary Clinton and Senator John McCain proved victorious as the polls closed in Florida, on January 29. Clinton led the Democratic candidates winning 42 percent of the votes. Senator Barack Obama secured 33 percent of the votes. Edwards followed third with 13 percent of the votes.
McCain secured the win in the Republican primary by a narrow margin with 36 percent of the votes, edging out, Mitt Romney, who earned 31 percent. Rudolph Giuliani followed third with 14 percent of the votes. Mike Huckabee had 13 percent.
The Florida Primary represented a significant moment for the Republican Party. McCain arguably emerged as the leading Republican candidate. To date, McCain has 95 pledged delegates at the National Republican Convention and has secured 89.
Florida’s primary also resulted in a significant change to the race. Democratic candidate John Edwards and Republican candidate Rudolph Giuliani withdrew from the race in the aftermath of this week’s primary. Shortly after conceding his presidential run, Giuliani offered his strong endorsement of McCain. McCain’s victory speech in Florida addressed Giuliani specifically; “And I want to thank, my dear friend, Rudy Giuliani, who invested his heart and soul in this primary, and who conducted himself with all the qualities of the exceptional American leader he truly is.”
Edwards has not officially endorsed either Clinton or Obama. Instead, he addressed the future of both candidates; “They have both pledged to me — and more importantly, through me to America — that they will make ending poverty central to their campaign for the presidency,” said Edwards as reported by the New York Times.
Some in Washington consider the end to his campaign abrupt. As the self-proclaimed “populist” candidate, Edwards found himself quickly overshadowed by two Democratic candidates who defied historical precedent. Edwards said, “It’s time for me to step aside so that history can — so that history can blaze its path,”
As the field narrows, competition heats up for the remaining candidates. The Democratic race remains remarkably close as primary season continues. It is likely too soon to determine who will earn the Democratic nomination. Senator Obama has 63 pledged National delegates and has secured 34; Senator Clinton has 48 pledged delegates and has secured 21.The Democratic campaigns have become increasingly personal in recent weeks. During the South Carolina debates that took place January 21, both candidates let accusations fly. In one pointed statement, Clinton said, “You know, Senator Obama, it is very difficult having a straight-up debate with you, because you never take responsibility for any vote, and that has been a pattern.” Obama responded with a statement against Clinton’s brand of “negative politics” as summarized by the New York Times.
Today, the Associated Press covered Obama’s appearance in Denver in which he bluntly claimed Clinton would be a “step back” for the country. “I know it is tempting, after another presidency by a man named George Bush, to simply turn back the clock, and to build a bridge back to the 20th century.”
The Washington Post reported Clinton’s quick response; “That certainly sounds audacious, but not hopeful,” in a statement that twists the title of Obama’s autobiography, “The Audacity of Hope.”
Republican candidates McCain and Romney endured a similarly tense undertone in Wednesday’s debates that took place at the Reagan Presidential Library. Considered the Republican frontrunners, McCain and Romney dominated the beginning half of the debate—seeking momentum in preparation for Super Tuesday. The candidates sought to undermine one another’s credentials, and issues of consistency and honesty surfaced as the harshest criticisms of McCain and Romney’s political careers. In terms of who “won” the debate, CNN political analyst Bill Schneider concluded that it was Huckabee who had the best performance of the night and that both McCain and Romney successfully and unsuccessfully defended themselves against criticism.
Candidates now turn their attention towards California—a state of essential importance to a successful presidential campaign—and Super Tuesday. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger already offered his endorsement of McCain; Schwarzenegger called McCain a “great American hero and an extraordinary leader.”
Notably, Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts and Caroline Kennedy have offered their endorsements to Obama. Ms. Kennedy submitted an Op-Ed piece “A President Like My Father” to the New York Times, published January 27 in which she compares Obama to her father; “I have never had a president who inspired me the way people tell me that my father inspired them. But for the first time, I believe I have found the man who could be that president — not just for me, but for a new generation of Americans.”
Overall, the campaigns have remained inconclusive to this point. The voters of the United States will provide more answers for the candidates as the polls open on Super Tuesday, February 5, 2008.