Republican candidates descend on Florida and prepare for a fierce battle.

Republican candidates descend on Florida and prepare for a fierce battle.

Republican candidates descend on Florida and prepare for a fierce battle.

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Jan. 21 2008 6:37 AM

The Sunshine Boys

The New York Timesand Washington Post lead with a look at Florida, the next state on the Republican primary calendar, which could provide the most decisive victory in a still-crowded field before Super Primary Day on Feb. 5. Everyone agrees the Sunshine State is the most important date yet for the Republicans and that it's going to be a fierce battle. Both papershighlight the diversity of the state ("a series of mini-nations," is how the WP puts it) and the way each candidate is trying to win his piece of the pie.

USA Today leads with a look at how states are taking matters into their own hands when it comes to combating global warming. Seventeen states have already set up "specific reduction targets," and the number is bound to increase as several are set to announce their own plans to reduce emissions this year. Some think all this action from the states could push the federal government to act so businesses can avoid having to deal with a variety of standards. The Los Angeles Timesleads locally but goes high with a look at how the Bush administration has been "quietly scaling back" its foreign policy goals. Although officials once talked about lofty ambitions such as a Middle East peace deal, as well as ending the nuclear programs in North Korea and Iran, they are now more focused on putting out fires and "laying sound foundations" for the next president.

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A key factor that makes Florida's Jan. 29 primary critical for the White House hopefuls is that it will be the first contest where Rudy Giuliani will be seriously competing. Giuliani's poll numbers have been dropping lately but a victory in Florida could easily result in a comeback. Although conventional wisdom would hold that Sen. John McCain now has the momentum after his South Carolina victory, so far in the race "there has been little evidence that a victory in one state gives a candidate a lift going into the next one," says the NYT.

Still, McCain's campaign hopes to side-step Giuliani and portray this as a two-person race between the senator and Mitt Romney. But a potential problem for McCain, who has relied on independents for his victories so far, is that Florida is a closed primary so candidates will have to prove they can woo over their party members. To win Florida, and effectively carry the front-runner label, McCain is counting on military veterans and the NYT also mentions he could benefit from Sen. Joseph Lieberman's support in a state that has a large Jewish population. Meanwhile, Giuliani thinks he can win over the large number of transplanted New Yorkers. Everyone agrees Mike Huckabee is fighting an uphill battle in the state since he's not as well organized there, but he could get a bump if Fred Thompson decides to drop out of the race.

On the Democratic side, things are also likely to get more heated before Saturday's primary in South Carolina. In a TV interview, Barack Obama criticized Bill Clinton for taking "advocacy on behalf of his wife to a level that I think is pretty troubling" and vowed that his campaign intends to "directly confront" the former president "when he's making statements that are not factually accurate."

The WP fronts Obama's speech at Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s church yesterday, where he made a connection between King's legacy and his campaign message of unity. The NYT notes that by speaking about race before a black audience, Obama did something "that he has rarely done in his months of campaigning for the presidency." For her part, Sen. Hillary Clinton also talked about King when she accepted the endorsement of one of New York's most prominent black pastors. Discussions about race are likely to become even more prominent in the coming days as the candidates prepare for Saturday's elections, where some estimate that African-Americans could make up 60 percent of the electorate. The WP notes that Saturday's election in Nevada "confirmed the emerging racial dimension in the race" as Obama received the overwhelming majority of the Black vote, while Clinton won with Hispanics and white voters. The NYT points out that Edwards gets much of his support from white voters, and his continued presence in the contest could hurt Clinton on Saturday.

The NYT off-leads word that the Pentagon is considering moving Gen. David Petraeus out of Iraq and into the top NATO command later this year. A senior official said the Pentagon is looking into it but nothing has been decided. Word is the administration might try to get him confirmed before the end of September so he's in the new NATO post before the next president takes up residence in the White House. But some say the administration shouldn't be too quick to get Petraeus out of Iraq at such a key moment, particularly since his No. 2 is scheduled to leave Iraq in mid-February.

The NYT fronts a look at the increasing evidence that at least some of the postelection violence in Kenya was meticulously planned and organized before the voting even took place. Although it's not clear whether there was a national plan or if political leaders were involved in the organizing, it's evident politicians on both sides at least fanned the flames by giving ethnically charged speeches. The NYT says that in some cases the killings have been "community efforts" encouraged by influential elders, and the police claim that some of the attackers are simply too organized and numerous to have come out of nowhere.

The LAT fronts news that the paper has lost another editor. James O'Shea said yesterday that he was forced out due to disagreements over plans to reduce the newsroom budget. It marked the fourth time in less than three years that the top editor or publisher left the paper due to clashes with management over cuts. The NYT says the move came as a surprise to LAT employees, particularly since the company's new owner, Samuel Zell, had emphasized that the way to increase revenue wasn't to continually cut costs. Although the cuts requested were relatively small, the WP says O'Shea didn't "want a shrunken newsroom to be his legacy."

Almost all the papers front football news as the New England Patriots continued their undefeated streak with a decisive victory over the San Diego Chargers yesterday. If they beat the New York Giants at the Super Bowl, the Patriots will join the 1972 Miami Dolphins as the only undefeated teams in league history.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the Today’s Papers column from 2006 to 2009. Follow him on Twitter.