Florida Primary Updates, Effect on Super Tuesday
MICHELE NORRIS, Host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.
ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:
First, to NPR's Greg Allen, who's at McCain election night headquarters in Miami. Do you hear anything at all there? Or have you heard anything from people at headquarters about where the balance of the votes might be coming from and whether the McCain people are confident this three point lead can hold up as the second half of the vote is counted?
GREG ALLEN: No one is willing to say that at this point that I can tell, Robert. They do know they did very well with Hispanic vote, which is something they made a play for. Of course, every candidate did, including - Rudy Giuliani and, of course, Mitt Romney. But McCain seems to have done very well there, talking to some voters in a little event. And one man said, he's a good man - talking about McCain - he's a good a man, someone we can trust; that's the kind of sentiment you get. People - they feel that they've known him for a long time. And I think that really kind of paid off for him, certainly in the Hispanic community here in Miami Dade County.
SIEGEL: Do we know other things about which groups of voters in the Republican primary favored John McCain or what their interest were and how he did well?
ALLEN: Well, what we understand is that he did well among moderate voters - no surprise there. Something that kind of maybe also shouldn't be a surprise - he did very well among older voters, voters in their 60s and older. And that, maybe, is good news. I don't know. But it certainly is where his votes came from here for him in Florida State which has a lot of senior citizens and older people.
SIEGEL: Well, Greg, we'll talk later in the evening, I'm sure. And thanks a lot.
ALLEN: Sure thing, Robert.
SIEGEL: And we're going turn now to NPR's Scott Horsley who is with Mitt Romney. Scott, any sense of mood there among Romney supporters?
SCOTT HORSLEY: Very early, as the results trickled in, there was a little teeter-tottering. And I think, at one point, we saw a very slight lead for Mitt Romney. But in general, John McCain has led so far tonight. And as you pointed out, it's going to get harder for Romney to make up that difference.
SIEGEL: The single issue that voters in Florida identified as most important by quite a margin was the economy, and if all had gone well for Mitt Romney that should have propelled him into first place. It still might, for we all know, as they count the balance of the votes. But his argument was, I'm from the private sector. I know business. I turn things around.
HORSLEY: But what we know from looking at the exit polls is that actually, John McCain did slightly better among that almost 50 percent of the vote who thought the economy was the biggest issue. So it was affected in a sense that Romney was right that people thought that was very important, but he may not have been right that that would be an issue that he would dominate in.
SIEGEL: Okay, Scott. Look forward to hearing more from you this evening.
HORSLEY: Talk to you later.
SIEGEL: First, do results in, say, Florida or, for that matter, in prior primaries in South Carolina, do they tend to have any impact on voters' opinions in California?
MARK D: Oh, I think they do. I think we've been seeing changes in the polling as different events have occurred - after Iowa, after New Hampshire, and now on the Democratic side, anyways after South Carolina. So the Florida results will be very interesting, and we'll be polling and try to see what effect they'll have.
SIEGEL: Now, I'm going to interrupt right now to introduce our national - our Washington - Ron Elving. We have some news here, Ron.
RON ELVING: Yes, Robert. The news is that NPR is prepared on the basis of the count to date to call this race for John McCain. We are projecting that he will be the winner in Florida tonight over Mitt Romney.
SIEGEL: Mark DiCamillo, I mean, does that change the scene in California much? Or does it fortify Mr. McCain's position in California?
CAMILLIO: I think it might. He has been leading in the pre-election polls. And Romney was trying to win from the conservative side. I think in California, you really have a tug-of-war between voters on the Republican side who are very conservative, who tend to favor Romney versus all other Republicans who are, I guess, I would call moderate conservatives who tend to favor McCain. They're about evenly split in terms of the size of those two groups, but I think with McCain's success in Florida, maybe some of the strong conservatives might be tempted to reconsider McCain; that maybe more voting with their heads rather than their hearts. But they - their natural instincts are not to go with McCain. But as McCain shows success in other states, I think that adds to his advantage in California.
SIEGEL: What about on the Democratic side? What do the polls in California show there? And are votes there equally fluid and possibly capable of reacting to results elsewhere?
CAMILLO: Oh, I definitely think they could be in play. All of the - polls that had been done to date, the public polls had been done prior to the South Carolina win for Obama, so there are yet, is yet to be any read in California of what effect that win has, and then, obviously, what effect the Kennedy endorsement has. So the next round of polling will be very significant. If Obama is going to be competitive in California, I would think that the next round of polling would show that he's closing in on Clinton. If, however, Clinton maintains her double-digit lead, I think it's pretty safe to say she will carry California.
SIEGEL: And when would the next round of polls come out, do you think?
CAMILLO: Well certainly, our organization will be out this coming weekend. There may be others, but certainly, you need some time to do the post- South Carolina field period, so we've been interviewing all week.
SIEGEL: Mm-hmm. Now I want you to ask you about, something which must give you, folks, headaches in doing polls for a primary, and that is the role of independent voters and the different rules of the two parties in their California presidential primaries.
CAMILLO: And we'll see what effect, you know, having the closed primary has on the outcome. But, you know, the Florida results, because it's similar to California being a closed primary, it's probably very encouraging for the McCain side here in California.
SIEGEL: Well, Mark DiCamillo of the Field Poll - that actually isn't the formal name of the highly-respected Field Poll in Calfornia.
CAMILLO: California - founded by Mervin Field, and I think he deserves most of that credit.
SIEGEL: Mark, you're the director of the Field Poll in California. Thanks, Mark, for talking with us...
CAMILLO: Thank you.
SIEGEL: ...today. And the news, of course, here is that in the Florida Republican primary, at which there are 57 delegates at stake, John McCain, the Arizona senator, is the winner, and Mitt Romney is running second. They're still counting the votes, and they will be for another - at least another hour or more. But the gap seems to be more than 50,000 votes. Our editor, Ron Elving, is with me. And, Ron, this - should one now say in this very subjective business of reporting on primary campaigns John McCain is now clearly the Republican frontrunner for the nomination?
ELVING: I think you have to say that at this point, Robert. He has the monkey of South Carolina off his back from 2000. He has the sense that he cannot win among Republicans only off his back. This was an event where only Republicans could vote. And while it is a narrow victory, it is a victory over a field that had already been winnowed to people who, it seemed, had McCain hemmed in on several sides. For him to emerge from this is really his most impressive showing as a politician to date.
SIEGEL: His people have remarked that he spends more time fundraising nowadays because there's actually - he can raise funds now, which wasn't the case a while ago. I would assume a couple of big wins - the one in South Carolina, and this bigger win, I suppose, in Florida - makes it much easier for McCain to raise money.
ELVING: In addition to that, there is going to be a series of endorsements. Perhaps Rudy Giuliani, tomorrow, as some people are now reporting, will pull out of the race himself and endorse John McCain. I believe there will be a series of endorsements for John McCain from other figures in the Republican Party. There will be people who are in the establishment, people who are outside, what is sometimes thought of as the Republican establishment - all of them suddenly jumping on the McCain bandwagon.
SIEGEL: And again, to repeat, in the Democratic primary, at which - in which no delegates will be awarded, Hillary Clinton winning with ease, and in fact, winning more votes than anybody else in Florida today. In the Republican primary, which was a field contested by all the major candidates, the winner is John McCain.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.