Florida results thread: McCain wins and is close to the nomination, Clinton prevails, Giuliani could endorse McCain

12:30am: Full analysis will come soon, but here are the almost final results from Florida. Among Republicans, John McCain gets 36% to Romney's 31.1. Giuliani barely hangs on to third place with 14.6% with Mike Huckabee at 13.5%. As predicted, Romney won Jacksonville County big (41% to 27%) but did not do well in the I-4 corridor, losing Tampa's Hillsborough County 47% to 40%. McCain also outperformed Romney in the conservative panhandle, where Huckabee drew a lot of votes (and won a few counties). But it is Miami-Dade County that did Romney in, as McCain got 49% there to Romney's 16%.
Among Democrats, Hillary Clinton finished barely below 50%, at 49.7%, with Obama at 33%. Edwards got 14.4% and won a few counties in the North.

9:35pm: Rudy Giuliani's concession speech went through the main elements of his stump speech... using past tense to talk about his campaign: "We ran a campaign that was uplifting." He did not announce his intentions, and then CNN (and presumably other networks) interrupted his speech, as Romney had started speaking. Romney's concession speech took many shots at Washington DC and how they "haven't" done anything, as an upbeat Romney and a raucous crowd vowed to press on. A preview of next week's campaigning. Meanwhile with two-thirds of precincts reporting, Clinton is at 50% while McCain is ahead by 60,000 votes, 36% to 32%.

9:15pm: The election is called for John McCain. A huge victory for the Arizona Senator who gets all of the state's 57 delegates. This could be the end of the fight for the Republican nomination. With Giuliani perhaps getting behind McCain within 24 hours and McCain already ahead in states like California, New York, it's going to be very hard for Romney to stop him.

9:10pm: With Rudy Giuliani a distant third, the discussion tonight is when he withdraws -- and when he endorses McCain, with whom he is close. CNN is reporting that there are "ongoing conversations" that Giuliani could endorse McCain as early as tomorrow, something Time is reporting with a bit more certainty. Meanwhile, Huckabe gave a speech that pledged to press forward to Super Tuesday. And this could create a situation in which Giuliani's votes go to McCain but Romney is deprived of Huckabee's.
With 51% reporting, McCain is looking stronger, now up 36% to 31% which is a 50,000 margin. Romney is running weaker than he wanted to in the I-4 Corridor, particularly in the Tampa area and in Orlando's, where McCain and Romney are tied. That's a county Romney had to do well in And to make matters worse, McCain is looking good in the Panhandle and... Palm Beach hasn't even started reporting. Things are looking very good for McCain.

8:55pm: Clinton is ahead with 51% and she just gave a fiery victory speech. The networks carried 5 minutes of her speech before interrupting, despite Clinton's very large victory. Also noteworthy is that Clinton carried.the Latino vote big and that her big lead indicates that she did not lose any votes in the past week despite the awful week-end she had.
With 46% of the vote in, McCain is building up his lead. He is slowly climbing up and is now leading by 37,000 votes -- 35% to 32%. 31% of Miami Dade is in, and McCain is leading 46% to 13% for Romney (Giuliani gets 32%). There are still thousands and thousands of votes to come in in Miami, so McCain's lead will still grow thanks to Miami. Marc Ambinder is quoting a Romney adviser acknowledging that this is heading towards a McCain victory.

8:30pm: John King on CNN is going through the vote county by county and shows McCain performing well in areas he has to do well; and Romney is doing more poorly in counties he has to do well in. Miami Dade has started reporting and Romney is way behind, 44% to 12% for now. The Panhandle is still mostly out.

8:15pm: With 30% reporting, Romney surged and is behind only 8,000 votes -- 34% to 33%. This is obviously not very significant, but it should serve as a reminder that we are waiting for votes from some of the biggest counties in the state. But exit polls are now showing that Romney is running third among Hispanics, behind McCain and Giuliani. And the Southern part of the state (and Dade County) with the highest proportion of Hispanics is not really reporting yet.

8:05pm: Networks call it for Hillary Clinton, who is flirting with the 50% threshold. And the Republican side is staying way to close to call, with McCain up 21,000 votes 34% to 31% with 24% in. And the exit polls are now being released, and they show McCain up 2% on Romney (though I don't think that includes early-voting).

7:55pm: 12% of precincts now reporting (apparently Florida did not learn to not release results before all polls are closed) and McCain is up 34% to 31%, with most of the important counties still outstanding. The Panhandle, of course, but also Miami, Tampa and Jacksonville's areas. A troubling sign for the Romney campaign: He was supposed to do well for Saratosa County. But with almost all the county in, McCain is leading there 39% to 33%. Among Democrats, Clinton is up with 52% also with 12% precincts counted. Hillary would obviously love to break 50%.

7:40pm: With 3% in, Romney and McCain and Romney are a hundred votes apart at 31%, with Giuliani at 17% and Huckabee at 14%. (These are MSNBC's numbers, the SOS website has Romney up 35-31 with as many precincts reporting). Numbers could fluctuate more than in other states as different parts of the state favor different candidates, and they are also different voting techniques which mean that the different regions will report at different rhythms.

7:10pm: Rumors of exit polls are circulating more today than in prior elections. The National Review hears that McCain is up 2% in the second wave of exit polls (i.e. to close to call), but that Romney is up by 6% among absentee/early-voters which make up about a third of voters. And Time Magazine actually is releasing early exit poll hints that have McCain leading big among senior citizens and Hispanics. Remember these are all early exit polls -- and we all know how wrong those can be.

Original Post: The polls in most of the state close at 7pm but the Panhandle -- which is on Central Time -- will close one hour late. The first hard results should not come to us before then, but exit polls could start being leaked within the next hour.

This results thread could be the one in which the GOP goes a long towards determining its nominee. It will be very hard for Mitt Romney to wrestle the nomination away from John McCain if the latter wins Florida tonight. But we aren't there yet at all. This is the first Republican contest in which no one has any idea what will happen. We went in IA, NH, MI, NV and SC with polls generally in agreement about the winner; but Florida surveys have consistently shown a toss-up with Romney and McCain swapping leads and staying within the margin of error. To make matters more complicated, a significant portion of the electorate (possibly about 40%) will have voted absentee and in early-voting, which will complicate our reading of exit polls and will also make some of the results unpredictable because immune to last minute momentum.

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