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GOP race in Florida is Romney vs. McCain

The two candidates are running neck and neck before the Republican primary Tuesday.

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Final push: Mitt Romney at a rally in Fort Myers, Fla., Monday.

mike segar/reuters

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As a matter of logic, Mitt Romney would seem to have an edge going into Florida's Republican primary on Tuesday. The economy is the No. 1 issue, and the former Massachusetts governor clearly has the strongest economic portfolio of the Republican presidential candidates, as a megawealthy businessman, turnaround artist of the 2002 Olympics, and a state chief executive.

Sen. John McCain of Arizona, neck and neck with Mr. Romney in Florida polls, is less well versed in economics than he is in security matters, by his own admission. But voter decisions are never that simple. And in a state that skews toward older, more experienced voters, electability also looms large.

Polls show Mr. McCain doing better in general election matchups than Romney, and that could help McCain.

"You have a more informed electorate here, and some voters are strategic," says Susan MacManus, a political scientist at the University of South Florida in Tampa.

Even though independent voters are shut out of Florida's primary, making this the first "closed" contest of the 2008 nominating season, "we can't downplay the fact that some would see [McCain's] appeal to independents as a plus," she adds. "Bottom line here, people are looking with part of an eye on the primary, and 1 1/2 eyes on the general."

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