- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Sen. John McCain are considered “the most Republican of the candidates” in today’s Florida Republican primary, a poll released yesterday found.

Both Mr. Romney and Mr. McCain, of Arizona, grabbed the title by capturing 24 percent of likely voters in the Suffolk University poll by David Paleologos.

“Young, middle-aged and older men think Romney is the most Republican. He’s their guy,” Mr. Paleologos told The Washington Times.

“But older women say McCain is Mr. Republican for them.”

Former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani came in third at 12 percent, followed by former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee at 10 percent and Rep. Ron Paul of Texas at 5 percent.

Most supporters of Mr. Giuliani and Mr. Huckabee identified Mr. McCain as the second most-Republican candidate.

Overall, Mr. McCain won 30 percent of likely voters, compared with Mr. Romney’s 27 percent — a statistical tie.

Mr. Giuliani, once the front-runner in Florida and nationally, took 13 percent, with Mr. Huckabee at 11 percent and Mr. Paul at 4 percent. Sixteen percent of likely voters were undecided or declined to respond.

McCain appears to have more intense voter support,” Mr. Paleologos said. “Exactly 72 percent of his voters said they are unlikely to change their mind before tomorrow, compared with 68 percent for Romney, 66 percent for Huckabee and 64 percent for Giuliani.”

Mr. McCain, after his campaign’s near financial collapse last year, returned to win the New Hampshire and South Carolina primaries by combining independents and Republicans in his column for winning pluralities.

Florida could provide his breakthrough to Republican majorities.

Of people planning to vote for Mr. McCain, 49 percent said he is the most Republican, while 51 percent of those intending to vote for Mr. Romney said he is the most Republican.

The endorsement by Florida Sen. Mel Martinez already appears to have provided a slight gain for Mr. McCain with Hispanics. The endorsement of Gov. Charlie Crist, with his political organization, also might help get out the vote for Mr McCain, Mr. Paleologos said.

Evangelicals, who propelled Mr. Huckabee’s rise to fame, are supporting Mr. Romney in Florida. He was favored among 23 percent of them to Mr. McCain’s 22 percent and Mr. Huckabee’s 19 percent.

“Will the evangelical voting for Huckabee rotate to McCain is a big question,” Mr. Paleologos said.