Florida Crowns McCain King; What's Next? Sen. John McCain won Florida's Republican primary yesterday, winning 36 percent of the GOP vote. Sen. Hillary Clinton got the Democratic nod, but did not collect any delegates. How are candidates on both sides of the aisle keeping their chances of victory alive?
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Florida Crowns McCain King; What's Next?

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Florida Crowns McCain King; What's Next?

Florida Crowns McCain King; What's Next?

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From NPR News, this is NEWS & NOTES. I'm Farai Chideya.

Big news on the political front today. Some people have described former Senator John Edwards as the third person in a two-person race for the Democratic presidential nomination. Today, he acknowledged that he couldn't overcome the Obama-Clinton juggernaut, and Senator Edwards dropped out.

Mr. JOHN EDWARDS (Former Democratic Senator, North Carolina): We as citizens and as a government have a moral responsibility to each other, and what we do together matters. We must do better if we want to live up to the great promise of this country that we all love so much. It's time for me to step aside so that history can blaze its path.

CHIDEYA: Republican candidate Rudy Giuliani also ended his bid. We'll talk with our political analyst in a few minutes. But for now, John McCain takes one step closer in the race to the White House.

Senator JOHN McCAIN (Republican, Arizona; Presidential Candidate): Thank you Florida Republicans for bringing a former Florida resident across the finish line first and, as I have been repeatedly reminded lately, an all-Republican primary.

(Soundbite of cheering)

CHIDEYA: McCain won Florida's Republican primary yesterday with 36 percent of the vote. Hillary Clinton got the Democratic nod. But hey, none of the delegates officially count. How did the increasingly smaller pack of candidates keep their chances at victory alive?

For more on the Florida primary, we have Ron Elving. He's NPR senior Washington editor.

Hi, Ron.

RON ELVING: Hello, Farai.

CHIDEYA: So it's been busy. What can you say? I mean, a lot of news emerging since last night. Take a minute to update us on what the big headlines are.

ELVING: Okay. It's still the big headline that John McCain won Florida. It was a good size turnout. It was Republicans only. He won. He won clearly. It was a terrible blow to Mitt Romney. And that was all well, also, even more true for Rudy Giuliani who had pretty much shoved all his chips onto Florida. He finished a poor third. He's dropping out today.

Now, on the Democratic side, as you said, Hillary Rodham Clinton got a big vote. She got 50 percent of the overall vote. It was a very heavy vote on the Democratic side as well. She got more votes than John McCain and, yet, she gets no delegates for it because the Democratic primary in Florida had been pretty much outlawed by the Democratic National Committee. So no delegates being awarded yesterday and none of the candidates had campaigned there although, Hillary did fly in last night to bask in the warmth of the straw vote essentially, that they took there.

CHIDEYA: Now, Rudy Giuliani, obviously, has seen the deck of cards. What about Mitt Romney? Where does he stand right now?

ELVING: Mitt's going to have to make a tough decision because, basically, all the candidates are out of money and have to go back out and try to raise more money on the Republican side. I think the Democrats - Obama and Hillary - still have a fair amount of money to spend that they had already raised, but the Republicans are pretty much all maxed themselves down.

So Rudy doesn't really have a - excuse me - Mitt Romney doesn't really have a chance to go back to that many fundraisers at this point. He's pretty much going to have to dig into his own pockets. He's already done that for tens of millions of dollars. He's going to have to decide, do I dip into my own pocket for tens of millions of dollars to try to win California, New York, New Jersey, Illinois - the big states voting next Tuesday or does he try to be the king of the small states.

CHIDEYA: Now, we're going to talk about the Democratic delegates or lack thereof with our political analyst a little bit later in the show, but the Republican Party was also stripped of half of its delegates. Can you explain a little bit to us about who's making these decisions and how are people reacting? If at all, do they even know that they're being kind of denuded of political power?

ELVING: I think a lot of people in Florida don't understand this. They're known that their party moved the primary up into January. They like that because they thought they were going to get more attention from the candidates. And on the Republican side, it clearly worked. They had 57 delegates available, winner take all and that was the biggest chunk thus far this year in the Republican Party, so all the candidates turned out. It was the no-excuses primary. Everybody is still in it, had to run in Florida, and it was a big momentum builder before next week's Super Tuesday. So it worked out okay for the Republicans and they got half a loaf.

On the Democratic side, because there were no delegates and because all of the candidates signed there's no campaign pledge and stayed out of Florida, it really turned into a big bust and a big confusing, frustrating thing for Florida Democrats.

CHIDEYA: So let's talk money. How costly has the primary race been so far for both sides? Are there any candidates that are on the brink of running out of money?

ELVING: I'd say probably all of them. On the Republican side - are effectively out of money at this point. But John McCain can go out and raise new money. Mitt Romney can spend from his own pocket. He doesn't look like the front-runner, so he's not going to be able to raise very much money in the next week before Super Tuesday, but John McCain can. And that's, of course, why Rudy Giuliani is getting out. He doesn't want to get whipped in his home state of New York next week but he's really tapped out.

The Democrats - both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton - have long-standing ties to people through the Internet who can continue to come up with money for them and keep them going. John Edwards - not so much. John Edwards' totally out of money and that's why, in New Orleans today, John Edwards is dropping out.

CHIDEYA: Well, Ron, thank you so much for the update.

ELVING: My pleasure, Farai.

CHIDEYA: We've been speaking with NPR senior Washington editor Ron Elving. He joined us from our studio at NPR headquarters in Washington, D.C.

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