McCain Eases Into Florida After Big Weekend

Jan 21, 2008 7:15pm

ABC News’s Bret Hovell Reports: Sen. John McCain eased into Florida Monday, and into a political realm of increased attention and scrutiny.

After a big win in the South Carolina primary on Saturday, McCain tweaked his message to include points of interest for the local community. In a stop in Miami at a Cuban restaurant, McCain talked about his role in the Cuban Missile Crisis (he was an aviator on board the USS Enterprise, one of the first ships to arrive in the waters offshore Cuba). In Jacksonville, he talked about his ties to the area (he was stationed here after returning from Vietnam).

"We know my hometown is Phoenix, Arizona," McCain said. "My hometown before that, frankly, was here in Jacksonville."

He was also asked to respond to comments by Chuck Norris, the martial arts expert/actor/fitness guru who is a supporter of McCain’s rival Mike Huckabee. Over the weekend Norris said that he chose not to support McCain because he was too old for the office.

"I’m afraid that I may have to send my 95-year-old mother over and wash Chuck’s mouth out with soap," McCain said.

The Arizona Republican started his day in a Little Havana neighborhood in Miami where he was surrounded by the largest and most unruly mob of reporters and supporters to date.

His schedule was relatively light compared to recent days. He spoke with reporters in Miami, and again later in Jacksonville, Florida. He also attended a fundraiser in Jacksonville, and has one scheduled every day this week.

Though he riding a bit of a wave after South Carolian, he was reluctant to call himself the frontrunner.

"You know what happened when I considered myself to be a frontrunner some time ago," McCain told reporters, alluding to his campaigns near total collapse over the summer.

"I could allege that I’m the frontrunner, but I think my friends here would attest to the fact that there are a lot of undecided voters."

McCain will spend every day between now and the Florida primary on January 29 in the Sunshine State, trying to win those voters. But in many cases he’ll have to abandon the retail politicking that won him South Carolina and the primary in New Hampshire earlier this month. In a state as large and diverse as Florida, McCain’s strategy of holding many town hall meetings – many of which would last more than an hour apiece – will yield to shorter stops in more cities around the state. The campaign will hope to attract the attention of local earned media to get McCain’s message out.

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