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All eyes on the Sunshine State: Update: CNN, Fox call it for McCain; McCain to Associated Press: "It shows one thing. I'm the conservative leader who can unite the party"

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By Michelle Malkin  •  January 29, 2008 06:10 PM

Update 9:49pm Eastern. McCain’s speaking and rejoicing about his win in an all-Republican primary. McCain thanks Charlie Crist, who looks orange. McCain thanks “my dear friend, Mel Martinez.” Crist is doing a lot of double-pointing and mugging to the crowd. McCain “offers my best wishes to Gov. Romney and his supporters…the margin sure isn’t big enough for me to brag enough and for you to despair…McCain thanks Huckabee for his ‘good humor and grace’…and thanks his ‘dear friend Rudy Giuliani’…” McCain is wrapping up his teleprompter stump speech, making obligatory references to Reagan and conservative principles and judges, and promising he’ll win in November.

I said Romney has an uphill battle. It’s Mount Everest-ian.

Update 9:42pm Eastern. Reader Zoso e-mails his reaction to the Florida primary results: “Conservatism is dead.”

Update 9:34pm Eastern. Romney’s speaking. He phoned McCain to congratulate him. “What kind of nation will we leave our children and our grandchildren?…Washington has failed us…We’ve asked them to fix immigration. They haven’t. We asked them to maintain high ethical standards. They haven’t. We asked them to balance our budget, fix Social Security. They haven’t. Washington is fundamentally broken. We’re not going to change Washington by sending the same people back just to sit in different chairs.” He’s pumping up the crowd.

It’s going to be an uphill climb for Romney.

Update 9:22pm Eastern. Rudy’s speaking and channeling McCain’s talking points: “Elections are about fighting for a cause larger than ourselves…we ran a campaign that was uplifting…Americans deserve a return to honor and substance…We are the party of freedom. And we’re a big party. And we’re getting bigger. I’m even in this party! This is a big party.” He’s giving a cheerful stump speech. But he is past tense.

Update 9:14pm Eastern. CNN calls it for McCain with 54 percent of precincts reporting. Fox calls it for McCain.

And now McCain calls himself the conservative who can unite the party. Do you agree?

“It shows one thing. I’m the conservative leader who can unite the party,” the Arizona senator said in a brief interview with The Associated Press.

Allah always finds a way to make me smile even in dark moments. He cracks: “SECOND LOOK AT STAYING HOME!”

Update 9:00pm Eastern. Say hello to McRudy. “Conversations” are underway between the McCain and Giuliani camps for an endorsement sometime tomorrow in California.

Update 8:57pm Eastern. Mike Huckabee’s addressing supporters in Missouri. He had a dismal showing in Florida. I’ll say this: All of those fear-mongers who decried the co-opting of the party by the evangelical Right should be preparing a bit of baked crow right about now. Huckabee will settle for some broiled chicken–no skin.

Also: Ron Paul = 3 percent.

Meanwhile, a number of readers are asking me why the official Florida vote tally is slower and lower than the vote tallies being carried on the cable nets. I don’t know the answer. If you do, let me know.

(A reader e-mails: “Simple…one is being run by government workers.” Heh.)

Update 8:40pm Eastern. Conservatives are still not supporting McCain. So sayeth exit polls: “John McCain has long had trouble courting the most conservative members of his party, and exit polls of Florida Republican primary voters show a sizeable number continue not to support him. According to the exit polls, 62 percent of primary voters identified themselves as conservative and 37 percent of them voted for Mitt Romney, compared to the 27 percent who went for McCain.”

Update 8:32pm Eastern. Wolf Blitzer seems tickled by the possibility of a recount. Lot of TV people appear to want to relive 2000. Tom Brokaw was warbling about it on MSNBC as well.

Update 8:22pm Eastern. McCain has an 18,000-vote lead. CNN reports that Romney’s running in a dead heat with McCain in Orange County, where he needs a big win. Collier County in southwest Florida has 92 percent votes counted and Romney’s winning big there. CNN exit poll data here. In the conservative panhandle, Romney’s running well in several counties. McCain’s counting on Miami-Dade. Only 7 percent reporting in there yet.

Update 8:15pm Eastern. The Naples Daily News has local exit poll results putting Romney ahead of McCain, 130-91.

With 29 percent of precincts reporting statewide, it’s McCain 34, Romney 33.

On the Dem side: Hillary takes Florida, as expected. She didn’t “win” anything, though.

Update 7:55pm Eastern. Reader Richard in Tampa e-mails: “We have a property tax ‘reform’ measure on the ballot, which no doubt accounts for the higher than usual voter turnout.” Polls in the Panhandle are still open.

Palm Beach Post commenters share their voting experiences. A sample:

By Barry Liner
January 29, 2008 10:43 AM | Link to this
Those of us who recently began voting in Florida were not aware of the rule that prohibits primary voting unless you declare a party affiliation 30 days prior to the election. As a result thousands of votes wills not be counted. At my polling place alone atleast 4 couples left without voting during a 5 minute period. Most were very upset. We all beleived that we could vote by declaring at the polls and then remain registered that way until we changed our affiliation after the general election. Our stupidity perhaps but a hugh loss of votes to someone.

By Joy Lynn Wilson
January 29, 2008 10:53 AM | Link to this
I was 11th in line at H.L. Johnson Elementary School in RPB. Doors opened a few minutes past 7:00am and as I was watching the staff “try” to program the voting cards it was apparent there was a problem. A simple problem…no one turning the machines on. Other than this everything went very smoothly.

By E
January 29, 2008 11:28 AM | Link to this
I work at a public library. Early voting ended at my library Sunday. There is no further voting here. Numerous people came here yesterday wanting to vote. Today, Election Day, is half over and already numerous people have come in expecting to vote. What does this say about American Democracy (and mental acumen and, while we’re at it, Palm Beach County) when these people don’t even know when and where to vote?! PALM BEACH COUNTY IS FULL OF IDIOTS and sadly they want their retarded voices to be heard.

Update 7:14pm Eastern. Oy vey. Problems at the polls.

Update 7:10pm Eastern. Megyn Kelly on Fox reports that late-deciders are almost evenly split between McCain and Romney. The Crist endorsement mattered to 43 percent; 53 percent said it didn’t affect their votes.

***
Polls close tonight in Florida at 7pm EST and at 8pm in the 10 westernmost Panhandle counties. The Miami Herald reports that “Anyone still in line when those deadlines arrive will be allowed to vote. Some winners likely will be declared soon after 8 p.m. EST, though a few key outcomes might not be known for hours.” Early exit poll results are trickling out, but take them with a grain of salt. Remember that some one million early and absentee votes were cast in the Florida primary. With that caveat, AP reports:

•Eight in 10 Republican primary voters were white and a little more than one in 10 were Hispanic — about half of whom were of Cuban heritage. There were few blacks on the GOP side. In the Democratic primary, two-thirds were white, about one in five were black and a little more than one in 10 were Hispanic.

• About one in seven voters in each party’s primary described themselves as independents.

• About three in 10 Republican voters called themselves moderates. Slightly more Democrats identified themselves as moderate.

Also: “Given four choices, nearly half of Florida Republican primary voters said the economy is the most important issue facing the country. Terrorism, Iraq and immigration each were picked by fewer than two in 10.” Hmm. Dan Riehl wonders about those results.

Jim Geraghty has leaked exit poll numbers showing McCain 34.3 percent, Romney 32.6 percent, Giuliani 15.3 percent, Huckabee 12 percent.

Allah notes Fox results: “McCain wins among seniors and veterans — but only by a point(!) — and crushes Giuliani among Hispanics, 50-26. Romney wins on immigration, 45-26, but on the key issue, the economy, McCain wins by four.”

Cuban-American conservative voter George Moneo at Babalu Blog casts his ballot for Mitt Romney and has a message for Democrats:

The day has arrived where Republicans in Florida get to select their nominee for the office of President of the United States. This election season seems to have started years ago, or so it seems since it’s been non-stop politics since the mid-terms elections of 2006. I have been very wary of who would run. I wrote then that I was not happy with the direction of the Republican Party, away from its core principles of conservatism, and I’m still not. But, we have made our bed and we are sleeping in it, tossing and turning uncomfortably.

I don’t have a candidate that excites me and gives me hope for our party. I am involved because I fear that the alternative is so much worse than I can imagine, that not getting involved would be suicidal. I am sorry Fred dropped out of the race, and I am sorry that Rudy has faded. Despite my misgivings about Rudy’s liberal positions, I like him. And I “liked” Fred, too. And “like” is an important factor, that warm and fuzzy that a candidate gives you in addition to the positions you have in common. I don’t think I “like” any of the remaining candidates.

With that thought in mind I will go to polls in about ninety minutes and cast my vote for Mitt Romney. Of the remaining candidates he seems to be the one that echoes my core conservative principles the best. He’s not an ideal conservative by a long stretch, and he’s far from being an ideal candidate for me, but he’s the one that I feel will do the best job considering the alternative(s). His curriculum vitae, businessman (read: capitalist) and governor, at least tells me that he can manage large, complex organizations. The others don’t have this “real world in the trenches” experience, they are professional politicians. I am tempted to write in a vote for someone I would truly want to lead this country, but I swore to myself that I would never waste a vote again.

So there you have it. I am not happy about it but we make the best of what we have. If you are in Florida go out and vote. If you’re a Democrat, well I’m sorry to say your party doesn’t give a s**t about you since the Dem delegates in Florida don’t count. But vote anyway. It’s your civic duty and the least we can do in this great country we live in.

Worried about the intra-party spats among Republicans? Ralph Reed isn’t:

The conservative political activist, best known as the first executive director of the Christian Coalition, showed up at the Tampa event for Romney. (Although he hasn’t endorsed anyone officially.)

“Don’t over-interpret the healthy intra-family, back-and-forth in a party,” said Reed. “I’m a big believer that competitive, hard fought primaries as long as you can get back together again afterward are healthy they’re good for the party. What’s wrong with having a nice vigorous, competitive primary? It’s good.”

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Categories: 2008 campaign, 2012 Campaign, Barack Obama, John McCain