Political

Florida and South Carolina results: what do they mean?

John McCain: another win confirms his comeback and gives him a chance as we head towards Super Tuesday, where 22 states coast-to-coast are up for grabs. His campaign still looks to be struggling to have the financial and organisational strength to fight on that much larger stage, but he’s had an excellent run in with a series of victories giving his campaign a major boost.

Mitt Romney: his campaign will be disappointed to lose to McCain by a small margin – again – but will be hoping that a few early loses will be swept away into the curiosity corner of history by major wins on Super Tuesday when his well-funded campaign (and very, very deep personal pockets) will be able to afford TV commercials on a scale the others and unlikely to be able to match.

Rudy Guiliani: disaster. His strategy was based on sitting out the early contests and then sweeping in to win the big states like Florida. His national poll ratings have plunged, he is losing support in key Super Tuesday states and he didn’t even come close to winning in Florida. He is now expected to pull out and endorse McCain according to the US media.

Mike Huckabee: has again failed to get close to matching his early upset. The fall in his support late in the Florida campaign as Romney surged suggest he has lost out in the battle to be the ‘true Republican’ candidate against McCain.

Barack Obama: having hammered Hilary Clinton in the South Carolina Democrat primary on Saturday, he got the momentum again, further boosted by a subsequent clutch of Kennedy family endorsements. Losing now in Florida to Clinton means it’s back to as you were: he’s still credible, but not romping it. The big challenge is to overcome the Clinton machine when the contest goes in effect national for Super Tuesday.

Hilary Clinton: losing Florida after not just losing, but being overwhelmed, in South Carolina would have been a huge blow. But now her win means it’s 1-1 in the immediate run up to the big event of Super Tuesday. A nagging doubt for her campaign: did Bill’s campaigning in South Carolina let Hilary effectively concentrate on other states, and so is having him out on the campaign trail in the highest possible profile manner something to be repeated in the next few days, or was the South Carolina thumping a warning that, actually, Bill isn’t going down that well? The scene of crowds of (Obama supporting) Democrats booing when Bill Clinton appeared on TV after the South Carolina results may well give pause for thought. But Super Tuesday should play to the Clinton strengths, requiring as it does huge organisational strength across the whole country.

John Edwards: even his latest fundraising email implicitly admits he’s not really expecting to win any states. But he is continuing to pick up delegate numbers (though not in Florida where Democrat rules means no delegates were at stake as the state had brought the primary forward in breach of the party’s rules). And who knows? Maybe that dream of political enthusiasts – a contest in which no candidate gets a majority of delegates – will happen, making the Democrat convention a real decision making event with Edwards holding the key to who gets the nomination. In which case one question will be: does Edwards want a shot at Vice President again or is Attorney General his preference?

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