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Florida Gov. Crist Endorses McCain

Even as the political class was digesting the news of Sen. Barack Obama's (Ill.) overwhelming victory in South Carolina's Democratic primary, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) scored the endorsement of Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (R) -- a major development in advance of the Sunshine State's Tuesday primary.

McCain and Crist
Republican presidential candidate John McCain greets Florida Gov. Charlie Crist during a Jan. 26 Republican campaign dinner in St. Petersburg. (Reuters)

"I don't know anybody would do better than the man who stands next to me -- Senator John McCain," said Crist at a campaign rally in Pinellas County. "That's an endorsement."

McCain called it an "honor and privilege" to win the endorsement of the popular Crist.

In endorsing McCain, Crist follows in the footsteps of Sen. Mel Martinez, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee. Martinez formally endorsed McCain yesterday.

First elected in 2006, Crist continues to enjoy strong job approval ratings. A recent Strategic Vision survey showed 60 percent of voters approving of the job Crist has done with just 33 percent disapproving.

The twin endorsements come as independent polling shows Florida to be a two-way race between McCain and former governor Mitt Romney. Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who has cast Florida as the firewall of his late-starting campaign, runs a distant third.

Regular Fix readers know we tend to be skeptical of the impact of a single endorsement in a presidential contest. And, we stick by that skepticism. But, Crist's endorsement of McCain will likely make the front page of every newspaper in the state tomorrow -- a nice bump of free press for the Arizona Senator just forty eight hours before Floridians vote. (Kudos to the McCain team who timed Crist's endorsement just as all the cable networks were analyzing the Obama victory -- ensuring that any person even remotely interested in politics who had tuned in would catch the news.)

In a race as tight as polls suggest Florida will be, every little bit helps. And, while Romney will almost certainly pooh-pooh the importance of this endorsement, make no mistake: he would have loved to be standing next to Crist at that podium tonight.

By Chris Cillizza  |  January 26, 2008; 8:30 PM ET
Categories:  Eye on 2008  
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Next: Further Thoughts On S.C. and What Lies Ahead

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