Rudy exits, stage left

In the end, 9/11 wasn’t enough. Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, once the Republican presidential front-runner thanks to his status as “America’s Mayor,” suffered a debilitating defeat in Tuesday’s Florida primary. He prepared Wednesday to quit the race endorse his friendliest rival, John McCain.

Giuliani stopped short of announcing he was stepping down, but delivered a valedictory speech that was more farewell than fight-on.

Romney now stands alone

John McCain won Florida. Rudy Giuliani headed for the exits. And Mike Huckabee stayed put.

None of those things are good for Mitt Romney, McCain’s chief rival, who spent a small fortune of his own money to get this close to the White House.

So much for podunk politics

Yucca is so yesterday.

So are other localized issues once indulged in the presidential campaign. Ethanol has gone up in (politically correct) smoke. Billions for Detroit? A distant echo.

The presidential candidates, who have seemed to be running for mayor at times, now must run for the presidency.

They face what is essentially a national election in a week, two dozen contests coast to coast, and can no longer get by with the single-state pandering that helped get them where they are. Don’t expect to be hearing more about Iowa hog waste from the men and woman who would be president.

Will youth make a difference?

Tammy Hsu is one of those 20-something voters who can drive a presidential candidate crazy.

She registered to vote during the recent Illinois “grace period” and cast an early vote in her state’s Super Tuesday primary. But she’s still not completely sold on any candidate, not even Barack Obama, the home-state Democrat widely depicted as the choice of young voters.

Nor is she committed to a political party.

Rudy’s last gasp

Republican Rudy Giuliani’s White House quest could be in deep trouble as he lags far behind the leaders in a Florida presidential primary he counted on winning, according to a Reuters/C-SPAN/Zogby poll released on Tuesday.

Hours before the start of Florida’s voting, Arizona Sen. John McCain held a slim 4-point lead over former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, 35 percent to 31 percent, in what was essentially a two-man race, the poll found.

The love affair with the Clintons

Many white Americans never understood black America’s love affair with Bill and Hillary Clinton. Although the meteoric rise of Illinois Sen. Barack Obama — the new darling of many blacks, especially the young — has dampened the Clinton amour, the old affair still has enough fire for a brief examination.

Inspiration might be enough

Andrew Tieng knows all he needs to know about Barack Obama: that he deeply wants the Illinois senator to be the next president.

Obama’s strategy for the economy? “I can’t really say,” Tieng admits.

Trade and tariffs? “I don’t know anything about that.”

Iraq? “I don’t know,” Tieng shrugs.

At 19, working his way through college, Tieng is the kind of voter the Obama campaign has been luring into its fold. But how they are ending up there seems based less on specifics than on a general sense that Obama’s message of change and unity is real, if somewhat amorphous.

Kennedy: ‘Change is in the air’

Summoning memories of his slain brother, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy led two generations of the First Family of Democratic politics Monday in endorsing Barack Obama for the White House, declaring, “I feel change is in the air.”

Another Kennedy endorsement

Democratic Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts will endorse Senate colleague Barack Obama for president, party officials confirmed Sunday.

The endorsement will be announced Monday in Washington, said the officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak for the record. An official close to the senator said the announcement will be made during an Obama campaign rally at American University, where he will be joined by Sen. Kennedy and his niece, Caroline Kennedy, who also has endorsed Obama.

Obama claims diverse win

An exultant Barack Obama said his overwhelming win in South Carolina disproved notions that Democratic voters are deeply divided along racial lines.

“We have the most votes, the most delegates, and the most diverse coalition of Americans we’ve seen in a long, long time,” the Illinois senator told joyful supporters at a rally. “They are young and old; rich and poor. They are black and white; Latino and Asian.”

As if anticipating his remarks, his supporters chanted “Race doesn’t matter” before Obama took the stage in Columbia, and again as he spoke for 20 minutes.