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Florida win propels McCain into Super Tuesday

Romney remains competitive. But the Jan. 29 outcome ends the bids of Giuliani and, on the Democratic side, Edwards.

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For Romney, one new source of votes would be supporters of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who came in fourth in Florida with 13 percent of the vote. Romney and Mr. Huckabee tied for the lead among evangelical voters with 30 percent each. But Huckabee shows no sign of quitting and could win some delegates in Southern states on Super Tuesday.

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The Florida results were telling for Romney. He did the best by far among the 27 percent of voters who self-identified as "very conservative," winning 44 percent of their votes. McCain and Huckabee each got 20 percent. McCain won all the other ideological groups. The irony is that Romney governed Massachusetts as a moderate, shifting his positions on social issues only as he prepared for his presidential campaign.

More disturbing for Romney was the fact that McCain beat him among voters for whom the economy was the No. 1 issue. McCain has acknowledged that economics is not his strongest subject, and Romney had come to tout his own success in the business world as a central argument for his candidacy. When economic woes eclipsed Iraq as the No. 1 issue for voters, Romney seemed ready to cash in with votes, but not enough materialized.

"There's something more at play when you're dealing with John McCain – it's authenticity," says Mr. Zogby, the pollster.

Sometimes his eat-your-spinach style of talk flies right in his face, such as during the Michigan primary, when McCain talked down the possibility of regaining jobs. "There are limits to straight talk, and yet for the most part, it really seems to work for him," says Zogby.

Clinton is up, Edwards bows out

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton won the Democratic primary in Florida, beating Sen. Barack Obama 50 to 33 percent, but the result was mostly symbolic. Because of a dispute with the national party over the primary's timing, no delegates were at stake, and the candidates pledged not to campaign in Florida.

Still, Florida proved to be the end of the line for the campaign of former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, who announced his exit on Wednesday. Though Senator Obama hinted Tuesday night that he'd asked for Mr. Edwards's endorsement, it's unclear whether his withdrawal would most help Senator Clinton or Obama. Edwards fared best with whites and with older and working-class voters, groups that have skewed toward Clinton. But he also appealed to some independents, where Obama runs strong.

Clinton won in a state tailor-made for her most reliable constituency: older women. Some 59 percent of Florida Democratic voters were female, and Clinton won 55 percent of them. Forty percent of voters were 60 and older, and Clinton won 58 percent.

But there was some good news for Obama: He won among voters who had decided whom to support in the last month, in the last week, and in the last three days of the campaign (though not among those who decided on primary day). That victory among most of the late-decider categories may demonstrate a backlash against the Clinton campaign's hardball tactics against Obama in recent weeks, and possibly the weekend endorsements of Obama by Sen. Edward Kennedy and President John Kennedy's daughter, Caroline.

Turnout was heavy – 1.4 million voters – for a contest that technically did not count. Clinton campaign officials argue that the high turnout indicates intense interest in Clinton's candidacy and that those Florida voters' desires deserved to be counted at the Democratic convention next summer.

Ariel Sabar contributed to this report.