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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Mel May



U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez of Florida says he may endorse one of the Republican candidates for president before the state's Jan. 29 primary. "I might, but I haven't really made that decision," Martinez said. "Right now I'm just thinking about it and getting a lot of phone calls."


Martinez was the general chairman of the Republican National Committee until he resigned the post last fall. All the top Republican candidates but one - former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson - have called in hopes of winning support, Martinez said, including former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Arizona Sen. John McCain.

Martinez wouldn't hint at whom he might back if he chose to endorse someone, and gave an even-handed handicapping of the front-runners: He figures McCain and Giuliani must win Florida to stay in the race, while Romney's vast personal wealth him allows him the flexibility somehow to play by his own schedule. He wondered out loud if Huckabee could lose in South Carolina on Saturday and still compete in Florida.

But Martinez, the first U.S. senator born in Cuba, has had a close working relationship in the Senate with McCain. Both were vocal advocates of a politically risky plan last year to reform the U.S. immigration system in a way that would have strengthened the borders and provided a path to legal status for millions of immigrants now living in the country illegally.

It failed, but both continue to maintain that the nation needs a humane and practical plan for dealing with illegal immigrants who already live here.

[Last modified: Wednesday, September 15, 2010 2:16pm]


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