The Florida Primary: Sunshine State Update

I just landed at Dallas-Fort Worth airport for a brief layover before flying out to Los Angeles for this week's final pre-Feb. 5 debates. A few quick thoughts before "wheels up":

On Ron Paul: After posting items earlier today on what's next for Huckabee, Giuliani, Romney and McCain after Florida, I was bombarded with emails (some of them angry) asking why I was ignoring Ron Paul. "Why, sir, no mention of Ron Paul?" wrote "Mike C." "He is in better shape than some of the others, yet your blog and 99% of all the other MSM outlets omit him. Is the MSM scared of this guy? Are you scared of him?" To answer Mike: I'm not a particularly courageous guy, but, no, I'm not scared of Ron Paul. In fact, I think he's one of the most interesting things to happen to American politics in a long time. I even wrote an article about it. And you're right, Mike--the good doctor is doing better than, say, Giuliani. But here's the rub: Florida isn't going to change his candidacy. Paul's final polling average was 3.6 percent--nearly 10 points less than Huckabee, the next closest contender. Unless there's a larger disparity tonight than in previous primaries between that number and the result, Paul won't upend expectations and end the day either better or worse off than he started it. So no real news to report--unlike Giuliani, who's probably toast. That said, he's got a ton of money and passionate support, and he'll continue campaigning for as long as those two things hold out. But sorry, guys. I don't think Ron Paul will win the Republican nomination. The question is, will he continue as an independent even after the GOP chooses its candidate?

On Hillary Clinton: Hillary Clinton just won the Democratic primary in Florida. By more than 20 points. So why no coverage on Stumper? Because it doesn't count. Last year, when Florida threatened to move its primary before Feb. 5, the national party warned that it would strip the state of its delegates if it decided to go through with the plan. Florida ignored the warning, the party kept its promise and the leading Dems--Clinton, Obama and Edwards--agreed not to campaign there. But after Clinton lost South Carolina--and found herself in desperate need of momentum--she suddenly started saying that Florida should matter. Conveniently, she led in polls there by 20 points--largely as result of her name recognition and the fact that her rivals had never set foot in the state to stump or organize. Now she's on CNN claiming that Floridians' "voices will be heard." Baloney. The state--not Obama--decided to disenfranchise the locals. Clinton's charade is like, say, Michael Jordan winning MVP during a season when the entire league's on strike. No one was playing, and it's condescending to think that voters outside of Florida will see the balloons and banners and assume that she actually beat someone. As Obama spokesman put it in an email titled "Breaking...": "Obama and Clinton tie for delegates in Florida.  0 for Obama, 0 for Clinton."

On Rudy: Mark Halperin at Time's The Page is reporting that "sources expect Giuliani to endorse McCain as early as Wednesday." What did I tell you?

On Tonight: I'm about to take off for La-La Land, but my colleagues Suzanne Smalley, Sarah Elkins and Holly Bailey should be filing dispatches from the Republican "victory" parties. Only one will earn the name. Stay tuned.

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