2 Fla. papers endorse McCain, split on Clinton and Obama

Two Florida newspapers endorsed John McCain for the Republican presidential nomination Sunday, citing his extensive experience in politics and willingness to take unpopular stances.

The Orlando Sentinel and The Gainesville Sun both backed the Arizona senator, but were divided among the Democratic field. The Sentinel endorsed Hillary Rodham Clinton; the Sun gave its nod to Barack Obama.

The Sentinel said McCain was the most qualified of the Republican hopefuls, and the one most capable of change. "His maverick's record of taking on GOP leaders and special interests shows he can be the agent of change," the editorial board wrote.

The Gainesville paper's endorsement praised McCain's advocacy of campaign finance reform, refusal to condone torture, opposition to the Bush administration's tax and support of a carbon cap-and-trade system. The Sun was most laudatory of McCain's immigration stance.

Among the Democrats, the Sentinel lauded Clinton as "an accessible, hard-working lawmaker who has earned respect on both sides of the aisle."

The Sun said Obama's unique life experience would help him "repair the damage that eight years of the Bush presidency has done to America's image abroad."

The delegate-rich Sunshine State holds its primary Jan. 29, although only the GOP candidates are actively courting voters here. As punishment for holding the election early, the national Democratic leadership stripped Florida of all its delegates and the candidates pledged not to campaign in the state.
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