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Florida senator endorses McCain

Martinez's backing is likely to provide a boost among Cuban American voters.

January 26, 2008|From the Associated Press

MIAMI — Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.) endorsed John McCain on Friday, a move likely to give the Republican presidential candidate a boost with the state's Cuban Americans days before the Tuesday primary.

"I understand that he is ready on Day One to lead this nation, and I would trust the future and the security of this nation to this man," Martinez said in introducing the Arizona senator to the Latin Builders Assn.

"I would not endorse someone that I didn't have total confidence is going to be [Cuban leader Fidel] Castro's worst nightmare," he said, repeating the sentence in Spanish.

The decision is a blow to former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who are in a close fight with McCain.

Martinez, who was born in Cuba, immigrated to the United States as a teenager and is popular in Miami's Little Havana neighborhood. It remains to be seen whether Martinez's endorsement will translate into votes, given that a significant percentage of voters already have cast absentee and early ballots -- many before Giuliani's drop and McCain's ascent in the state.

But the backing of Florida's junior senator may help McCain in Miami, where many Cuban Americans live, and in Martinez's hometown of Orlando.

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