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McCain Looks Ahead to Florida

John McCain and his wife, Cindy, get ready to leave South Carolina after his primary victory. (AP).

By Juliet Eilperin
CHARLESTON, S.C. -- In case anyone was wondering whether the glow from Saturday night's primary win here had faded, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) informed voters this morning, "Obviously, we are still very happy about the win last night."

While at first McCain demurred when reporters asked him if he had achieved front-runner status by winning the South Carolina primary after defeating his rivals in New Hampshire, saying, "I don't know how to define a front runner. The reality is it helped us a very great deal," by the end of his roughly 15-minute press conference, he was comfortable with the label. When asked what he thought of former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani criticizing his opposition to President Bush's 2001 tax cuts, he replied, "When someone hasn't run a primary, I can understand why they would attack the front-runner." Then, he grinned.

Looking ahead to Florida, where he will arrive later today, McCain said the state's Jan. 29 primary "is very important. I don't know if it's a must win, but it's certainly very important to me." He added that while the pro-military bent of South Carolina helped him edge out his GOP competitors here, that same sort of patriotism and enthusiasm for the military is also "very true in Florida."

While the senator said his campaign contributions have risen in the wake of his two primary victories, he said he did not think campaign spending would determine his ability to convey his national security message to Florida voters.

"You have to rely, to a large extent, on media coverage. We can get the kind of earned media that gives a megaphone to spread that kind of message," he said. "It's still going to come down to, in Florida, to campaigning."

He added that he expected his opponent Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, to spend heavily in Florida, joking that while his wife Cindy hails from the Anheuser-Busch family, "Cindy's vast personal wealth is not enough to make up" for the difference.

And while McCain has traditionally reveled in coming from behind in political races, he said he's comfortable with being out front. "I certainly enjoy being the underdog," he said. "I much more enjoy doing very well."

By Web Politics Editor  |  January 20, 2008; 12:43 PM ET
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