Democratic leaders must be unhappy tonight. By designating John McCain, finally, as the frontrunner, Florida Republicans have given a huge boost to the strongest candidate who could be nominated in terms of appealing to independents and conservative Democrats. McCain’s hardcore support for the war in Iraq may be poison in November. But he’s far more likely to expand his vote beyond the Republican base than Mitt Romney.
At 71, McCain is an old-fashioned guy. He’s wearing a hideous tie (no, not the one in the photo), and he began his speech by talking to the folks in the room, not the television cameras — reminiscing about his naval training in Pensacola, introducing Gov. Charlie Crist, Sen. Mel Martinez and several members of Congress. He also hailed Rudy Giuliani, who’s likely to endorse him this week. That will be huge, as it will unite moderate Republicans around one candidate.
Now he’s giving his stump speech, aimed at solidifying his shaky support among conservatives. “I am as proud today to be a Republican conservative as I was then,” he said, repeating his frequent line of being a “foot soldier in the Reagan revolution.” Essentially it’s a list of conservative nostrums aimed at trying to unite his party, complete with a whack at judges, always popular with the red-meat crowd.
“We have a ways to go, but we’re getting close,” he said in closing. “And for that you have my profound thanks.”
Live-blogging note: When I don’t edit myself, I tend to write “huge” a lot, don’t I?