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Asian Tribune is published by E-LANKA MEDIA(PVT)Ltd. Vol. 20 No. 102

Fierce Fight in Florida for 57 Republican Delegates

By Philip Fernando in Los Angeles

Republican presidential hopefuls are fiercely competing in Florida ahead of a crucial January 29th primary, that may produce a lasting impression on the party voters as to who would ultimately be their presidential candidate in November 2008.

John McCain and Mitt Romney with two wins, John Huckabee with one, and former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani who has staked everything on winning the southeastern state by not contesting the earlier primaries are emerging as the top runners according to most polls. Among their romping grounds in Florida are beach communities, stops at Jewish delis and landmarks of the influential Cuban-American community, as well as a televised debate on Thursday. The Democratic candidates are staying away from Florida after the party declared the primary is non-binding because it violates party rules that only allow Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina to hold nominating contests before February 5.

The delegate number in Florida is 57, the biggest prize to date. McCain seemed ahead by a slim margin. Giuliani who risks everything on Florida may either be a big winner or a bad loser. He has largely ignored the smaller states in a huge gamble focusing only on Florida. February 5th "Super Tuesday," comes one week after Florida primary. Said a Giuliani spokesman, “We have to win in Florida”. His earlier commanding opinion polls lead has eroded, and several polls give a slight edge to Senator John McCain, who won last Saturday's Republican primary in South Carolina.

At voter event on Monday at Miami's Versailles restaurant -- the rallying place of the traditionally Republican Cuban-American community -- McCain was very optimistic. "I think we're doing very well, but to say front-runner. ... I'm just a little superstitious, you know," said McCain. He underlined his staunch opposition to the communist regime of Cuban President Fidel Castro. "I'll spend anything that is necessary for the cause of freedom," he said.

Hispanic voters will play a crucial role here judging by the ads in Spanish now being aired in the state. McCain, Giuliani, Romney and Huckabee have been canvassing the Hispanic vote vigorously. Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee kept a some what lower profile in the southeastern state and was campaigning in neighboring Georgia Tuesday morning.

Giuliani has made the most number of appearances in this state. He had met residents of the upscale southeastern Florida city of Palm Beach Gardens at the Too Jays Original Deli. He was speaking about the economy and what he would do to make it better. He cited his success as New York Mayor. McCain is generally counting on the idea that he would be the best candidate against the possible Democratic nominee.

"The most important thing a president needs to understand is how to stimulate an economy like ours," he said, adding that he had successfully turned around the economy of New York City when he was mayor.

Romney too emphasized the need to stimulate the economy. "I think people across the country are very concerned about our economy," Romney told the Fox News network on Monday. “His theme has been that Washington is fundamentally broken, and cannot solve problems of the people.

After finishing a poor third in a race he had declared critical, Fred Thompson bowed out of the campaign. He has not endorsed a candidate. There is some speculation that he might be an obvious choice as vice presidential candidate in view of his southern roots. He was the national co-chairman of McCain’s unsuccessful campaign for the 2000 Republican presidential nomination.

Two critical issues before the voters are economic down turn and getting out of Iraq. The Republicans have dealt with it differently than the Democrats. They have spent considerable time on issues like immigration, abortions and terrorism. The evangelical wing of the party has also called for moral values as the determining party theme. The Democratic tactic is to acknowledge the growing social divide and the decline in income levels. Clinton, Obama and Edwards frequently talk of Bush tax cuts to the super rich. They contrast it to the struggling middle and lower income groups’ fight for survival. Republican Huckabee, the Baptist preacher who known in the southern states has brought up the issue of poverty and inequality at some of his meetings.

All the major candidates in both parties are committed to bringing the troops home from Iraq but under different time tables. According to some polls, 98 percent of all Democrats and 70 percent of all independents favor withdrawing all US troops from Iraq within a year. None of the three likely Democratic nominees will commit themselves a definite deadline for withdrawal.

Delegtates won so far are:

Democrats: Hillary Clinton 210, Barrack Obama 132 and John Edwards 52.

Republicans: Mitt Romney 72, John McCain 38, John Huckabee 29, Ron Paul 6 and Rudy Giuliani 2 (CNN Statistics).

Democrats: delegates to the Convention total 4,049 with 3,253 pledged and 796 super delegates. A candidate must get 2,025 to ensure nomination.

Republicans : have 2,380 delegates, 1,917 pledged and 463 super delegates. A candidate must win 1,191 to get nominated.

- Asian Tribune -

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