A round-up of this morning's must-read stories--live from the Hampton Inn in St. Petersburg, Florida.
FOR DEMOCRATS, A GLEEFUL STATE OF THE UNION
(Carl Hulse, New York Times)
Democrats sat quietly while Republicans cheered many of the president’s applause lines, no longer afraid of seeming to slight Mr. Bush. They snickered at some points and some called aloud for a return of troops from Iraq. “Bring them home, bring them home,” they chanted. Even Republicans acknowledged the sense that an era was ending with Mr. Bush, still low in the polls and running out of time, stepping up to the teleprompters in the House one last time. One Senate ally said he sensed that the White House was going through the motions. And Republicans admit, privately, that they face a political challenge in November given the unpopularity of the war in Iraq and rising fears about the economy.
AND: A Frosty Moment Between Clinton, Obama (AP)
FLORIDA ELECTION A BAROMETER FOR THE COUNTRY
(Marc Caputo and Lesley Clark, Miami Herald)
The biggest and most diverse swing state is about to render its verdict on the presidency and politics, and here's what it will say to the nation.
MCCAIN, ROMNEY GO ANOTHER ROUND IN FLA.
(Michael D. Shear and Perry Bacon, Jr.)
The front-runners in the Florida Republican primary exchanged some of their sharpest criticisms of the campaign on Monday, with each seeking a win on Tuesday that would provide a big haul of delegates and a burst of momentum heading into a Feb. 5 mega-primary. With polls showing the race a dead heat between Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, the intensity of the vitriol from both sides increased as the clock ticked down. Romney said McCain would set the nation on a "liberal Democratic course"; McCain responded by saying that Romney's campaign is based on "the wholesale deception of voters." Romney shot back that McCain will "say anything to get elected; it's not going to work."
AGE MAY HELP MCCAIN IN FLORIDA
(Alex Frangos, Wall Street Journal)
Much is made of John McCain's 71 years. In Florida, his seniority could be a boon among older voters, many of whom have already cast ballots in early voting... In the tight Florida Republican primary, where Mr. McCain is neck and neck with Mitt Romney, the candidate who carries the older set will likely come out the victor today. Senior citizens account for 16.8% of Florida's population, compared with 12.4% nationwide, according to the Census Bureau, and are the most avid voters.
OR: Is McCain Fighting a Losing Battle? (Time)
LESS OF A DRAW, A SUBDUED GIULIANI STAYS UPBEAT
(Michael Cooper, New York Times)
The Giuliani campaign chartered a 727 on Monday for a day of barnstorming on the eve of Tuesday’s big primary, but none of the rallies at airports in Sanford, Clearwater, Fort Myers or Fort Lauderdale drew even a hundred supporters. Mr. Giuliani’s edge on the airwaves has dissipated, too, as his rivals are now outspending him on television. And Mr. Giuliani has found himself an afterthought in some local coverage of the primary, which has centered on Senator John McCain and Mitt Romney, who lead in polls.
HOW THE KENNEDY NOD HELPS OBAMA
(Karen Tumulty, Time)
Ted Kennedy, though visibly frailer as he nears his 76th birthday, can be a formidable ally to have on your side— something Obama needs as he heads into Super Tuesday with polls showing Hillary Clinton leading him in all but two of the 22 states that will be voting on February 5. The Obama campaign is planning a full schedule for Kennedy, particularly in places, such as the Latino community, where Obama remains an unknown quantity and the Kennedy name still carries enormous emotion. Kennedy also carries significant clout with organized labor, which could be looking for a new candidate to rally behind, now that John Edwards' star has faded.
BROOKS: The Kennedy Mystique (New York Times)
CLINTON ADJUSTS TACTICS IN RUN TO SUPER TUESDAY
(Heidi Przybyla and Indira Lakshmanan, Bloomberg News)
Barack Obama, fresh from a landslide victory over Hillary Clinton in the South Carolina Democratic presidential primary, plans to continue a campaign that is long on the need for change and inspiration and short on specifics. The question in the tight Democratic race is how Clinton, a New York senator, will adjust her campaign before the Super Tuesday primary contests in 22 states on Feb. 5, with the early indications that her husband, former President Bill Clinton, will be less visible and she will focus more on the economy.
TWO PLAYS FOR LATINO VOTE
(Jonathan Kaufman and Gerald F. Seid, Wall Street Journal)
The Hispanic vote is huge in many of the states voting Feb. 5. California is the biggest prize both in overall size and in the impact of the Hispanic vote. Hispanics make up 22.8% of the eligible voters in California, a study by the Pew Hispanic Center indicates. In Arizona, Hispanics constitute 17% of eligible voters, in Colorado 12.3%, New York 11.4% and New Jersey 9.9%. The challenge for Mrs. Clinton will be to spur a high turnout among a traditionally low-turnout group of voters... Overall, two-thirds of Latino voters supported Mrs. Clinton in Nevada, according to exit polls. Other surveys put Mrs. Clinton's support among Latinos nationally at close to 60%. The Clinton campaign refers to Latinos as their "firewall." At the same time, Mr. Obama's candidacy is exposing the long-simmering hostility between blacks and Latinos in some neighborhoods and in politics.
POWER THROUGH DELEGATES MAY BE EDWARDS STRATEGY
(Julie Bosman, New York Times)
Mr. Edwards has shown no sign of quitting, and his advisers have insisted that he still hopes to capture the nomination. But they have also floated other rationales for a continued Edwards candidacy, suggesting that his delegates could be used to promote his platform or to help him act as a power broker at the Democratic convention. “We’re still hoping that John is the nominee,” said David Bonior, the national campaign manager. “But with a chunk of delegates, you can leverage what you’ve been fighting for and standing for."