The Florida Primary: How McCain Won

Here's Newsweek's Michael Hirsh on McCain's Florida victory:

The astonishing turnaround in McCain's fortunes arose from several factors: Giuliani's disastrous strategy of skipping the early contests in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina; lingering GOP doubts about Romney's electability stemming from his Mormon faith, as well as tepid support from the Republican base over his squishy stance on social issues; and a certain degree of vindication for McCain's early staunch support of Bush's troop surge in Iraq.

McCain focused heavily on areas in the state where his message on national security would play well, like Tampa and the Panhandle-home to thousands of military vets and their families. Even in spite of polls showing that the economy was the biggest issue looming in the state, McCain did little to shake up his stump speech-hitting hard on the war, counterterrorism, and the need to keep America safe. Heading into the final weekend, McCain went on the attack, hitting Romney for his lukewarm support of the surge and calling him a flip-flopper. "He is consistent," McCain sneered to reporters during a campaign stop in Jacksonville on Monday. "He has consistently taken both sides of every major issue. He has consistently flip-flipped on every major issue."

Late last week, McCain and his aides began to lean hard on two big-time Florida lawmakers who had yet to offer endorsements in the race: Sen. Mel Martinez and Gov. Charlie Crist, both longtime allies of McCain. Both had initially said they would stay neutral in the race, but with Romney appearing to gain momentum in the polls, McCain privately pleaded with the two to reconsider. Martinez went first, announcing his support for McCain on Friday afternoon. On Saturday night, Crist, one of the most popular Republicans in Florida, followed, in what was regarded as the nail in Giuliani's coffin.

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