McCain Finds Momentum; Dems Set for Showdown


McCain fought to convince voters national security was the top issue and he won the 14 percent who said the war in Iraq was their top issue by 26 points (45 vs. 19 percent for Romney). But Giuliani, otherwise an afterthought for most voters, lost to both Romney and McCain among "terrorism" voters, the signature issue of his entire campaign.

Helping to balance his shortcomings among other issues, Romney won those 16 percent who put a priority on illegal immigration by a wide margin, 43-25 percent over McCain.

Four in 10 Republican primary voters said most illegal immigrants should be deported to the country they came from, while 58 percent said they should be allowed to stay as temporary workers or offered a chance to apply for citizenship. Romney easily won among those who said illegal immigrants should be deported to their home country (38-26 percent vs. McCain), while McCain won handily among those who favor giving illegal immigrants a chance at citizenship (46 -24 percent vs. Romney).

The Bush Factor

More than two-thirds have a positive evaluation of the Bush administration, and among these voters Romney beat McCain by 4 points, 35-31 percent. Among the third who have negative feelings toward the Bush administration, McCain had a 22-point edge over Romney, 45-23 percent.

More than four-in-ten said the endorsement of the state's popular Gov. Charlie Crist was important in their vote, and McCain took a majority of these voters, 54 percent vs. 21 percent for Romney. Among those saying the endorsement wasn't important, Romney won 40 percent of their votes, beating McCain by 18 points.

Religion has played an important part in Republican primaries and it was evident again in Florida. About four in 10 voters identified themselves as evangelical Christians and they split their vote evenly between McCain at 30 percent and Romney and Huckabee at 29 percent. Romney lost narrowly to McCain among the non-evangelicals by 38 to 34 percent.

The only Catholic candidate in the race, Giuliani, was not able to rely on their vote. McCain and Romney beat Giuliani by double digit margins among Catholics. Giuliani's unorthodox pro-choice position on abortion wasn't able to garner him enough support among the 43 percent of Republican voters who think it should remain legal. McCain, a pro-life politician, beat Giuliani in this group by more than 2-1.

The Democrats

Hillary Clinton swept virtually every significant voting group to easily win the Florida Democratic primary and set up perhaps a decisive showdown with Barack Obama next week on Super Tuesday.

Clinton handily beat Obama by 23 points among women, the bedrock of Clinton's support, and edged him by 4 points among men. Turnout among women increased to 59 percent from 55 percent in 2004. Clinton won big among liberals and moderates, and beat Obama and John Edwards handily among independents, a group that Obama had won in every other Democratic contest in which he competed this year. Obama had capitalized on younger voters in previous events, but he ran more closely with Clinton among younger voters losing 44 to 43 percent to her. Clinton, again, won among seniors, a continually reliable group for her, by a gaping 59 to 24 percent.

Clinton beat Obama among independent voters, winning 40-30 percent. Independents were one of Edwards' best groups where he finished close behind Obama with 25 percent.

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