Despite being reduced in importance by penalties from both parties, the Florida primary on Tuesday was the straw that broke the camel's back for both the Giuliani and Edwards campaigns. With Super Tuesday only a week away it seems precipitous for the number three contenders in both parties to suddenly give up the ghost, but after spending close to $100 million between them without achieving a single primary win, both campaigns ran out of money and had to weigh their priorities.
The looming question for both campaigns was whether they could do more good by holding out and trying to get as many delegates as they could on Super Tuesday and take them to the convention to have some influence - or use this opportunity to pick one of the frontrunners and throw their support behind that candidate to strengthen their position for the coming primaries.
Both campaigns chose to give up now for very much the same reasons, because the situations in the two parties were surprisingly similar.
In the Democratic Party you had two relatively idealistic populist progressives and a moderate party insider. You could even call Hillary a 'Humphrey Democrat'. In that situation and with no primary wins, Edwards was never going to be able to catch up, and he was hurting Obama and wasting his time. Edwards did not endorse Obama immediately, but a timely endorsement after the one-on-one debate this week between Obama and Clinton seems quite likely. Clinton has a narrow edge in delegates and momentum right now, but with Edwards' strong appeal to white working class voters, if he does endorse Obama he could push Obama into a real lead. Of course, Edwards' supporters among the trial lawyers and unions are probably pushing him towards Clinton, but I'm betting that when it comes time to choose he'll follow his conscience.
In the Republican Party you had two traditional Republicans splitting the vote of the old-line constituency and one self-styled conservative. It made sense for Giuliani to drop out now and throw his support to McCain to unify the votes of traditional Republicans who still make up more than half of the GOP. It was the best way to shut out the neocons and theocons and box Romney in before the critical votes on Super Tuesday. Giuliani's withdrawal and rapid endorsement have likely cemented McCain's lead and ought to carry him through to the nomination. As for Giuliani's fate, despite the speculation of pundits, he seems an unlikely choice for McCain's running mate. Maybe he'll get the job that was made for him and end up as Attorney General under McCain.