Two More States to Vote
Candidates get in final word before primaries in South Carolina and Florida
Democratic presidential hopefuls Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama take questions during a debate hosted by CNN and the Congressional Black Caucus Political Education and Leadership Institute, January 21, 2008, at the Palace Theater in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
Republican presidential hopefuls John McCain and Rudy Giuliani participate in a debate at Florida Atlantic University Kaye Performing Arts Auditorium, January 24, 2008, in Boca Raton, Florida.
The Republicans are in Florida, and the Democrats are in South Carolina this week to make a final pitch to voters.
South Carolina Democrats vote on January 26, while both Republicans and Democrats vote in Florida on January 29. They are the last two primary elections before 22 states vote on Super Tuesday, February 5.
Republican candidates met in Boca Raton, Florida, for a final debate on Thursday before the Sunshine State's primary. Before the debate, front-runner John McCain, a Senator from Arizona, spoke to supporters at the Hilton Hotel in Deerfield Beach.
An excited crowd waited outside on a warm, humid evening to see McCain off to the debate at Florida Atlantic University, just a few miles away. He spoke very briefly before jumping into a white van with his wife, Cindy, and close friend Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. Another van of campaign workers followed him out of the parking lot.
In his remarks, McCain blasted Democratic rival Senator Hillary Clinton of New York for comments she made at Monday's Democratic debate in South Carolina.
Clinton said in that debate that she would begin the process of pulling troops out of Iraq within 60 days of taking office. McCain said it would be admitting defeat in Iraq.
"For the first time in American political history, a candidate for President has called for surrender and raised the white flag," McCain told reporters. "I think that's terrible."
Many supporters at the event told Scholastic News they were concerned about the war in Iraq. But it was not the only issue on their minds.
"The economy is in recession right now. So I think whatever plans the presidential candidates have to improve the economy will help them in their campaign," said one young McCain supporter, 14-year-old Erin Kurlander.
Michael Maged, a purchasing agent in Florida, said the economy has become the biggest issue.
"The economy is more important now, as evidenced by the package that Congress just came out with today to stimulate the economy," he told Scholastic News. "It's a bigger issue now than it was a month ago."
Earlier in the day, Congress reached a bipartisan agreement to send tax rebate checks to middle class taxpayers this spring. The rebates are expected to stimulate the sluggish economy. Both the Senate and the House of Representatives still have to formally approve the stimulus package. Congressional leaders expect that to happen by mid-February. President Bush has indicated that he will sign the measure that includes the rebates.
"I'm very concerned about the economy, but I'm also very concerned about our country's role in the world and what's going on in the Middle East," said attorney Margary Golant.
Maged agreed. "A lot of people also look at national security issues and the war on terrorism," he said. "I'm looking for the candidate who has the best résumé, who can step in on day one and take over, and John McCain is the one."
Cardiologist Irvin Vasquez said while issues are important, he was voting based on character. "The deciding factor for me in this election is experience, honesty, authenticity," he said.
Where Are the Democrats?
Democrats are concentrating on South Carolina's primary on Saturday rather than Florida's. Because Florida moved its primary into January this year, the Democratic National Committee has stripped the state of its Democratic delegates to the convention. Democratic candidates pledged not to campaign in the state.
For more news on what's going on in South Carolina, check out "Countdown to Election 2008." Click on South Carolina on the map of the U.S.
Juliette Johnson is a member of the Scholastic Kids Press Corps.