A round-up of this morning's must-read stories--live from the Hilton Garden Inn in sunny Orlando.
STRATEGIZING FOR SUPER TUESDAY
(Laura Meckler, Wall Street Journal)
For weeks, presidential candidates have waged battle one state at a time. But now the race enters a new phase, with candidates delving into the complex coast-to-coast contest known as Super Tuesday, and tough decisions are being made about where and how to compete. On Feb. 5, voters in 22 states will cast ballots. More than half of all Democratic delegates and over 40% of Republican delegates are at stake in a pair of races that remain far from settled.
MORE: Hard Choices on the Path to Feb. 5 (Washington Post)
MCCAIN, ROMNEY BATTLE FOR FLORIDA, MOMENTUM ON CRUCIAL FEB. 5 SLATE
(Mark Silva and Tim Jones)
Unease about the future of the state's economy weighs heavily on the minds of Floridians facing a heated presidential primary election Tuesday that could prove pivotal to the 2008 campaign for the White House -- potentially catapulting the hopes of one Republican and scuttling the hopes of others. Swing voters have made this central "I-4 Corridor," built around a ribbon of highway stretching from Tampa on the Gulf Coast to Daytona Beach on the Atlantic, into prime hunting territory in the final days of Florida's primary campaign. A boost in Central Florida could be the winning formula for any of the GOP's leading contenders heading into the spree of big-state primaries on Feb. 5.
OBAMA AND CLINTON GO NATIONWIDE WITH MORE AIRTIME, LESS FACETIME
(John McCormick and Mike Dorning, Chicago Tribune)
After months of toiling mostly in just four states, the Democratic nomination battle has gone national, now literally a coast-to-coast affair that will make the past town hall gatherings and one-on-one meetings seem like quaint and distant memories. This is the big-stage, tarmac-to-tarmac phase of the fight, which some expect may drag on into March or even April.
MCCAIN'S ONE-TWO FLORIDA PUNCH
(Jonathan Martin, Politico)
With Florida Sen. Mel Martinez and Gov. Charlie Crist throwing him their support, the Arizona senator might be able to drive local coverage in the final hours and obscure the economic message rival Mitt Romney used to dominate last week. A victory in the Republican-only Sunshine State primary would cement McCain's status as the GOP front-runner and put him in a commanding position to wrap up his party's nomination on Super Tuesday. The late support for McCain sets up a contest that will pit momentum versus organization. With Crist and Martinez on board, McCain seems to hold the hot hand. But his organization here, basically nonexistent after his campaign implosion last summer, pales in comparison to Romney's well-tended grassroots operation, one set up by backers of former Gov. Jeb Bush.
CAN ROMNEY'S INNER GEEK WIN OUT?
(Michael Scherer, Time)
If you talk to any other Republican campaign about Romney, you will hear a mixture of venom and mocking disdain... They are envious of his near-bottomless bank account, revolted by his hard-nosed attacks and turned off by his chameleon-like handling of the issues. They interpret his hokey demeanor and polished presentation as a fundamental lack of character. And they are right that Romney has behaved poorly, and offered real reasons for voters to be suspicious of his convictions. But they are wrong to think he lacks a solid core. Romney is, at heart, the geeky consultant he spent his life becoming. He is a salesman and a number-cruncher, a goofball and a social stiff. He literally will talk about humor as something that can be decided upon in the boardroom.
BIG DREAMS BORN IN A HUMBLE TOWN
(Joel Achenbach, Washington Post)
HOPE, Ark. -- Bill Clinton's first home is a modest frame structure that looks out over the railroad tracks, a poster-plastered tobacco shop, a car lot and a Sonic fast-food drive-in. Mike Huckabee's boyhood home, just on the other side of downtown, is a small brick house that's only peashooter distance from where young Billy Blythe -- years before he changed his name to Clinton -- went to Miss Mary's Kindergarten. If Huckabee defies the odds and makes it to the White House, political scientists and anthropologists may descend on Hope to find out what's in the water.
AFTER OBAMA'S VICTORY, CLINTON CAMP SEEK GENTLER ROLE FOR EX-PRESIDENT
(Patrick Healy, New York Times)
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s campaign team, seeking to readjust after her lopsided defeat in South Carolina and amid a sense among many Democrats that Mr. Clinton had injected himself clumsily into the race, will try to shift the former president back into the sunnier, supportive-spouse role that he played before Mrs. Clinton’s loss in the Iowa caucuses, Clinton advisers said. But Democrats said it was not clear whether the effects of Mr. Clinton’s high profile could be brushed away by having him modulate his campaign style. They said Mr. Clinton had upset some of the central themes of Mrs. Clinton’s campaign, including her appeal to women and her assertions that her time in the White House during the 1990s amounted to vital experience rather than a link to a presidency defined as much by scandal and partisan divisions as by its successes on fronts like the economy.
KENNEDY CHOOSES OBAMA, SPURNING PLEA BY CLINTONS
(Jeff Zeleny and Carl Hulse, New York Times)
Both the Clintons and their allies had pressed Mr. Kennedy for weeks to remain neutral in the Democratic race, but Mr. Kennedy had become increasingly disenchanted with the tone of the Clinton campaign, aides said. He and former President Bill Clinton had a heated telephone exchange earlier this month over what Mr. Kennedy considered misleading statements by Mr. Clinton about Mr. Obama, as well as his injection of race into the campaign. Mr. Kennedy called Mr. Clinton Sunday to tell him of his decision.
OBAMA GAINS, BUT STILL LAGS IN THE BIG STATES
(Christopher Cooper and Amy Chozick, Wall Street Journal)
Barack Obama's overwhelming weekend victory in South Carolina's Democratic primary gives him new momentum in the run-up to the near-national nominating contest a week from tomorrow, known as Super Tuesday. But Mr. Obama heads into the 22-state showdown as the underdog. The Illinois senator trails Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York by large margins in polls in most of the big states voting Feb. 5. And he lacks the time or resources to campaign intensively in many of those far-flung races to close the gaps.