I’m sitting here eating spaghetti in honor of Rudy Giuliani and watching the first returns come in from Florida. Right now McCain is leading by a couple of points, which is about where the polls put him, with Mitt Romney breathing down his neck. Giuliani trails behind and isn’t going to even catch up to Romney.
There’s not much of a trick to calling this election when we’ll have results in a couple of hours. McCain is going to win by more than we expect with a big surge at the last minute. Pensacola will be counted late and will go heavily for McCain. Absentee ballots are counted last and will go heavily for McCain (from the military) and Giuliani (those who voted while he was still a contender). McCain needs a solid victory here, and it’s going to defy predictions and not be all that close. He may even win by close to a 10 point margin.
Of course, that’s not counting the Giuliani factor. Giuliani’s campaign is dead like the meatballs in my spaghetti. Giuliani hates Romney and has a lot in common with McCain. His campaign is disintigrating and leaks are all over the place that he’s going to endorse McCain at the most strategic possible moment next week to put the final nail in Romney’s coffin. He’ll likely give a near endorsement in his speech tonight. Giuliani is going to end up with votes in the mid teens, and to be realistic, those might as well be McCain votes. With the endorsement those New York expatriots in Florida will go for McCain overwhelmingly.
So what we’re likely looking at is McCain beating Romney about 8 or 9% and when you throw in the Giuliani votes McCain is effectively well over 50%.
That’s a resounding victory in a major state and in some circumstances it might be the end of the primary campaign. The big catch is that everyone except for Romney and Ron Paul is out of money. McCain’s campaign bus is running on fumes and Huckabee and Rudy are just as broke. Paul has pointlessly preserved his resources presumably to maximize his delegates so he can influence the platform and Romney who has outspent everyone else already, still has his enormous personal fortune to draw on. A media blitz in the next week at a cost of $30 million or more, might win Romney enough delegates to keep him in the running, so it’s too early to count him out.
It’s certainly the closest and most exciting Republican primary in my memory, and if the leading candidates aren’t the ones I would have picked, it looks like the end result will at least be someone qualified and not on the extreme political fringe.
The Democratic campaign is pretty fascinating as well, though there’s not much to say about Florida since it has been stripped of delegates in punishment for moving up their primary. The one really interesting factor is that after agreeing with the other candidates not to campaign in Florida, Hillary Clinton and her many surrogates broke that promise and they’re in Florida with some heavy last minute campaigning to at least pick up some momentum from a solid victory over and Obama who stuck by his word and is campaigning in the midwest. There’s a lot of speculation that Clinton will find some way to reinstate those Florida delegates at the convention and steal back the election. If that happens I think we might see a riot on the convention floor.
So that’s where it stands in Florida, though we’ll know a lot more before the night is out.