And once again, Florida may decide it all. If John McCain’s narrow lead holds, he will be very hard to stop. The benefits of a win here tonight could be enhanced if two other things break McCain’s way: Rudy Giuliani drops out and endorses McCain; Mike Huckabee stays in and prevents Mitt Romney from consolidating among evangelicals or winning Southern primaries.
If Romney makes up the 1-point deficit in these fairly early returns and pulls it out, he too will be very hard to stop. McCain’s leads in several important Super Tuesday states are based on momentum and name ID. McCain loses the former if he loses tonight. Romney also has a huge cash advantage that allows him more flexibility in advertising in multiple media markets simultaneously. If Huckabee gets out of the race, even if he endorses McCain rather than Romney, it will expand the pool of available conservative voters for Romney to win over.
Giuliani may well be right about at least this much: The winner of the Florida primary is the likeliest Republican nominee.