And hey, Florida is winner-take-all, so that 35% plurality gets him 100% of the delegates.
We took a look at the exit polls and guess what? There's a pretty good case to be made that Hispanic voters put McCain over the top in Florida. For all the carping that McCain's position on immigration had killed him in the Republican party, it may actually have saved him.
Hispanics made up 10% of Republican voters in the primary. While that's not a large percentage, they broke heavily for McCain: 51% for McCain versus only 15% for immigrant bashing Romney. That's enough to explain McCain's three percentage point victory over the Mittster.
All of which is why we'd rather see the GOP nominate an immigrant basher, making Democrats an easy choice for Latinos, than to see McCain as the nominee.
Now, wouldn't both Romney and Huckabee like to get a clean shot at McCain, in a closed primary, one-on-one? And yet with Giuliani now finished--his weak third place in Florida will be the end of his road--both Romney and Huckabee find themselves fighting for the hard-core party conservatives, while McCain consolidates the center and left of the party.
We'll have a more detailed analysis tomorrow of how all this affects Super Duper Tuesday, but McCain is now the clear favorite to win the Republican nod. With Giuliani mortally wounded, McCain should be able to sweep the blue state Republican primaries--NY, NJ, CT, Delaware, Illinois, probably California--while Mitt and Huck fight for the redder states.
With McCain now the clear odds on favorite, Democrats have to give serious thought to who they want to put up in opposition. We'll have some ideas on that as well tomorrow.
So, the Straight Talk Express is picking up steam. Unless conservatives in the party can really rally around Mitt Romney, they're going to have to learn to live with a "maverick" (i.e., someone who doesn't kowtow to party purity).