Senator Hillary Clinton captured 50% of the vote in Florida to beat rivals John Edwards and Barack Obama, though none had been allowed to campaign there due to a dispute between the state and national Democratic Parties. Mrs Clinton was strong among both Catholics and Latino-Americans. With 23% of Florida Democratic voters self-identified as Catholics, Mrs Clinton outpolled Mr Obama 3:1 with 60% of the Catholic vote. Her advantage among Latino voters was 2:1, in exit polling by CNN.
Speaking to supporters near Ft Lauderdale after the results were in, Mrs Clinton said, "I believe everyone who works full-time in America should bring home an income that lifts that person out of poverty and gives them and their children a better chance."
On the Republican side, Senator John McCain edged out former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. Mr McCain did particularly well among those who thought abortion should be legal or mostly legal, with Romney and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee doing better among those who thought it should be illegal or mostly illegal. These figures were mirrored when voters were asked about church attendance, with the most infrequent church attenders supporting Mr McCain. Many of these voters had originally supported Catholic candidate Rudolph Giuliani, though his poor showing in the early primaries and a string of poor press stories served to sandbag his previously invincible image.
29% of Republican voters were Catholics, and perhaps the big story is how weakly they supported Mr Huckabee. Fewer than 4% of Catholics voted for him, regardless of the frequency of their Catholic church attendance. The recent formation of a national Catholic outreach organization for Mr McCain may have found legs in Florida; 40% of Catholics voted for Mr McCain, 28% for Mr Romney and 23% for Mr Giuliani.
Having cosponsored legislation providing a path to legalization for undocumented workers, Mr McCain had been the object of considerable vitriol from his immigration-focused rivals. But Mr McCain scored strongly among both Cuban and non-Cuban Latino voters, capturing more than 50% of both groups in Florida. He also overwhelmingly carried the votes of Republicans who felt the economy was weak and worrisome.
With Mr Giuliani on the verge of withdrawing from the race, and apparently planning on throwing his support to Mr McCain, the Arizona senator begins to look formidable among both conservative Latinos and Catholics of all stripes.