Three Fla. newspapers back McCain, split on Democrats


John McCain
John McCain

Republican presidential hopeful, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., takes a question during a press conference at his hotel in Charleston, S.C., Sunday, Jan. 20, 2008, following his South Carolina presidential primary victory Saturday.

Charles Dharapak/The Associated Press
Published: Sunday, January 20, 2008 at 3:52 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 20, 2008 at 3:52 p.m.

Three Florida newspapers endorsed John McCain for the Republican presidential nomination Sunday, citing his extensive experience in politics and willingness to take unpopular stances.

The Orlando Sentinel, The Palm Beach Post and The Gainesville Sun all backed the Arizona senator, but were divided among the Democratic field. The Post and Sun endorsed Barack Obama; the Sentinel gave its nod to Hillary Rodham Clinton.

The Sentinel said McCain was the most qualified of the Republican hopefuls, and the one most capable of change. "His maverick's record of taking on GOP leaders and special interests shows he can be the agent of change," the editorial board wrote.

The Gainesville paper's endorsement praised McCain's advocacy of campaign finance reform, refusal to condone torture, opposition to the Bush administration's tax and support of a carbon cap-and-trade system. Although the Post disagreed with McCain's backing the war in Iraq, it gave him credit that "early and often, he criticized the war's mismanagement."

Among the Democrats, the Sun said Obama's unique life experience would help him "repair the damage that eight years of the Bush presidency has done to America's image abroad." The Post praised the Illinois senator for displaying "impressive judgment, consistency and political maturity."

The Sentinel lauded Clinton as "an accessible, hard-working lawmaker who has earned respect on both sides of the aisle."

The delegate-rich Sunshine State holds its primary Jan. 29, although only the GOP candidates are actively courting voters here. As punishment for holding the election early, the national Democratic leadership stripped Florida of all its delegates and the candidates pledged not to campaign in the state.

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