A round-up of this morning's must-read stories—live from the San Fernando Valley in Southern California.
MCCAIN DEFEATS ROMNEY IN FLORIDA VOTE
(Michael Cooper and Meghan Thee, New York Times)
The results were a decisive turning point in the Republican race, effectively winnowing the field to Mr. McCain and Mr. Romney, two candidates with very different backgrounds who have little affection for one another but share a similar challenge in winning over elements of the party suspicious of their ideological credentials.
FOR MCCAIN, MOMENTUM THAT MAY BE HARD TO STOP
(Dan Balz, Washington Post)
McCain's victory in Florida was especially notable because this marked the first major contest in which only registered Republicans and not independents -- long his most consistent supporters -- were allowed to participate. But he lost among voters who described themselves as conservatives. While not the darling of the conservative establishment, McCain is seen by many rank-and-file Republicans, and some party leaders, as their most electable nominee. They also consider him the one with the greatest opportunity to reach beyond the party's base to draw independent voters, who have swung toward Democrats in the past two years. Exit polls from Florida showed, however, the ideological fault lines that will shape the competition between Romney and McCain over the next week.
MCCAIN'S TASK AHEAD
(Alex Frangos, Wall Street Journal)
Earlier on Florida's primary day, McCain adviser Steve Schmidt outlined the challenges. "There are a greater number of states up for grabs on Feb. 5 than there were in the swing state category in the 2004 general election." And all that is taking place over six campaign days. "It's going to be a race that takes place over the TV," Schmidt said. That style of national campaigning, packed with television appearances and paid advertisements, will be new territory for McCain and his main rival Mitt Romney... Campaign consultants say it would cost $35 million to flood the airwaves in all of the Super Tuesday states for the next week, an amount only Romney could afford thanks to his personal wealth. "Yeah I'm concerned about it," McCain chuckled about the prospect of Romney opening his wallet that wide.
IS ROMNEY FIGHTING THE LAST WAR?
(Michael Scherer, Time)
As has become increasingly clear, the ideological coalition Romney so eagerly courted no longer controls the fate of the GOP, at least in the early voting states — which have favored Mike Huckabee, a populist who trumpets the occasional role of larger government, and John McCain, a legislative maverick who does not always play by the Republican rulebook. Romney tried to run as the establishment candidate, only to find that the establishment no longer held the power. The Romney campaign, humbled by recent defeats, now hopes to rebrand his insider strategy as an outsider one. As the candidate soldiers on to the 21 states that will vote on February 5, the campaign holds out hope that the old coalition can be reborn anew.
RUDY DEFEAT MARKS THE END OF 9/11 POLITICS
(Ben Smith and David Paul Kuhn, Politico)
Rudy Giuliani's distant third-place finish in Florida may put an end to his bid for president, and it seems also to mark the beginning of the end of a period in Republican politics that began on Sept. 11, 2001. Giuliani's national celebrity was based on his steady, comforting appearance in Americans' living rooms amid the terrorist attacks, and his campaign for president never found a message beyond that moment. The emotional connection he forged that day, it seems, has proved politically worthless. After months of wonder that the former mayor seemed to have no ceiling to his support, he turned out to have no floor.
MORE: For Giuliani, the Trip South Started Early (Michael Leahy and Michael D. Shear, Washington Post)
The Florida strategy was born of desperation, the result of a growing realization that the candidate atop every national poll last winter was not winning over voters in the states he needed to catapult his campaign. According to numerous sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they have close relationships with the campaign, the effort began bogging down early, as strategists struggled to find a state where Giuliani could win.
DID HILLARY CLINTON REALLY WIN FLORIDA?
(Walter Shapiro, Salon)
As Clinton and Obama brace for what may be the Democrats' first protracted count-every-delegate battle since 1984, the real question is not bragging rights from Florida. Rather it is: What will happen to Florida's and Michigan's convention delegates? Right now, the DNC excludes both states entirely from the calculation that 2,025 delegate votes are necessary for victory at the convention, out of 4,049 cast.
AND: Much Ado About Not Much (Dana Milbank, Washington Post)
Cheering supporters? Check. Election returns on the projection screen? Check. Andrea Mitchell and Candy Crowley doing stand-ups? Check and check. In fact, the only piece missing from Hillary Clinton's Florida victory party here Tuesday night was a victory.
OUTSIDE GROUPS AID OBAMA, A CRITIC OF THEIR INFLUENCE
(Leslie Wayne, New York Times)
After months of denouncing the influence of special-interest money in politics, Senator Barack Obama is nonetheless entering a critical phase of the presidential campaign benefiting from millions of dollars being spent outside campaign finance rules.
CHANGING DEMOCRATIC ELECTORATE BOOSTS TURNOUT
(Scott Helman, Boston Globe)
They are younger, more diverse, and less rigid in their party loyalty. More of them are women. And they are coming out in droves. The voters who are shaping the Democratic primary race form a very different electorate than the one that awarded Senator John F. Kerry the party's nomination in 2004. But while it is evident that voters this year are changing the face of the Democratic Party, the beneficiary of their influence is difficult to predict.
WHEN THE CAMPAIGN COMES TO NEW YORK, IT'S A TOUGH ROOM BUT A RICH PRIZE
(Sam Roberts, New York Times)
With Florida behind them and more than 20 primaries looming next Tuesday, the presidential candidates are about to grapple with a state where the Democratic governor’s popularity is in the gutter, the most powerful Republican is under federal investigation and the mayor of the largest city bolted not one but both political parties and has been mulling a presidential race himself.
(Roger Simon, Politico)
In the past, California was viewed as a large cash register, a place to fly into, hold a fundraiser and then quickly leave. Now, candidates have actually devised strategies to win delegates here. “The most significant change on the Republican side is the switch from winner-take-all statewide to winner-take-all by congressional district,” says Ron Nehring, the California Republican chairman. “In the past, the cost to enter the California market was prohibitive.” A statewide media buy in California can cost upward of $5 million per week. But with the new rules, a candidate need not compete across the entire state. Instead, candidates can spend far less money and target pockets of support that will yield delegates.