McCain, Romney Locked in Florida Tie

First, a story on the Florida Governor Charlie Crist endorsement of McCain from WKRG.com:

TAMPA, Fla. — Its lateness wasn’t the biggest surprise surrounding Florida Gov. Charlie Crist’s endorsement of John McCain.

Crist’s endorsement Saturday, three days before Florida’s GOP primary, came without any public word from McCain that he’ll support Crist’s top federal priority – a national catastrophe fund to help assure property insurance availability to disaster-prone states like Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina and Louisiana.

“No commitment,” snapped McCain, when asked whether a deal had been struck for the endorsement in return for his support of a federal backstop for insurance policies.

Crist, pressed on why he endorsed McCain without a promise on a catastrophic fund, said, “I trust the guy.”

As far as endorsements go, nothing matches Oprah but Crist is popular in Florida. This could be enough to break the tie before Tuesday and give McCain a slight edge. However, Florida’s primary is closed meaning he’s got to win solely among Republicans.

As of now, the RealClearPolitics average has McCain and Romney locked in a solid tie at 27%.

As such, Romney and McCain have been taking pot shots at each other all week, story from USAToday:

SARASOTA, Fla. (AP) — John McCain accused Mitt Romney of wanting to withdraw troops from Iraq, drawing immediate protest from his Republican presidential rival who said: “That’s simply wrong and it’s dishonest, and he should apologize.”

The fight for Florida grew ever more intense Saturday ahead of the state’s pivotal primary as a fairly civil debate over economic records and leadership credentials spiraled into an all-out showdown.

As the two candidates campaigned along the state’s southwest coast, McCain sought the upper hand with a new line of criticism, telling reporters in Ft. Myers about Iraq: “If we surrender and wave a white flag, like Senator Clinton wants to do, and withdraw, as Governor Romney wanted to do, then there will be chaos, genocide, and the cost of American blood and treasure would be dramatically higher.”

Minutes earlier, the Arizona senator took a slap at Romney without naming him during a question-and-answer session with Floridians, saying: “Now, one of my opponents wanted to set a date for withdrawal that would have meant disaster.”

Asked about the comment in Land O’ Lakes, Romney balked. “That’s dishonest, to say that I have a specific date. That’s simply wrong,” he said. “That is not the case. I’ve never said that.”

The economy has been the focus lately but Iraq is becoming a wedge issue in Florida, or at least the McCain supporters are trying to use it as such.

Finally, the man who’s been counting on Florida seems to be down, but he claims he’s not out, story from USAToday:

ORLANDO — Rudy Giuliani has a message for those who doubt his floundering presidential campaign can survive.

“The rumors of my demise are premature,” Giuliani told USA TODAY, paraphrasing Mark Twain’s famous line.

Public opinion polls here show Giuliani, who has staked his White House bid on doing well in Florida, stuck well behind John McCain and Mitt Romney in Tuesday’s Republican primary.

The former New York City mayor said in an interview that he would “surprise people” by winning Florida and racing ahead to the de facto national primary on Feb. 5, known as Super Tuesday.

A surprise is possible, he’s in a decent 3rd place right now but I don’t think he’s going any higher. Also, if Huckabee places 4th, I think the bell has tolled on his campaign. If he can’t win South Carolina or Florida, he’s basically done on his quest for the nomination.

We’ll cover this more tomorrow as the Republicans prepare for their last contest before Super Tuesday.