Image: Republican Voters Participate In The Florida Primary
Marc Serota  /  Getty Images
A woman votes in the C. Lawton McCall Community Center in the Florida primary on Tuesday in Miami Shores.
By Tom Curry National affairs writer
msnbc.com
updated 1/29/2008 8:13:40 PM ET 2008-01-30T01:13:40

For the Republican presidential contenders, it’s all or nothing on primary day in Florida. The winner will get all 57 Republican delegates at stake.

Here’s what some Florida voters were saying after they cast their ballots in two Jacksonville precincts.

This is neither a scientific nor a representative sample. It is simply an array of voters who cast their ballots and were willing to explain why they voted as they did.

In mostly blue-collar precinct 11C at the Oceanway Assembly of God Family Life Center in north Jacksonville, Ken Westbrook said he’d voted for former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee.

“He’s a conservative Christian,” explained Westbrook. It was not any one position that Huckabee took so much as “his history and his lifestyle,” said Westbrook.  “One wife, that sort of stuff. He has lived a moral lifestyle.”

Westbrook himself is a Baptist pastor, as Huckabee was before entering politics.

“I thought all of them were good; I don’t have a serious problem with any of them – except maybe Ron Paul” whose position on the Iraq war Westbrook disagrees with.

Confidence in Huckabee
Sheridan Kernop, a legal assistant, said Huckabee “was absolutely the best choice. I’ve been researching my candidates pretty well and (Mitt) Romney was in the running when I thought Huckabee was not going to be an issue. I always liked Huckabee, but I didn’t think the country would get behind him. But now that the country is starting to get behind him, I think that is the way to go.”

Image: Sheridan Kernop
Tom Curry  /  msnbc.com
Jacksonville, Fla. Republican Sheridan Kernop voted for Mike Huckabee in Tuesday's primary

Asked whether she’d considered voting for Sen. John McCain, Kernop replied simply, “McCain’s too old.” The Arizona senator is 71.

She also rejected former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani. “His views on same-sex marriage -- it’s just completely killing him,” she said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if he pulled out of the race this weekend.”

Huckabee “has good Christian morals and that’s the reason I’m voting for him,” said Ann Heath, who works at the driver’s license bureau. Why did she not choose Romney instead of Huckabee?

“The honest truth? Because he’s a Mormon.”

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The support for Huckabee in this blue-collar precinct, despite his scant funding and his loss in the Jan. 19 South Carolina primary, raises the question of whether he is strong enough to take away some voters who might otherwise have considered voting for Romney, if Huckabee weren’t on the ballot.

Image: Mike Ceribelli
Tom Curry  /  msnbc.com
Mike Ceribelli voted for Ron Paul Tuesday.

A Ron Paul voter explains
Mike Ceribelli, an information technology specialist, said he voted for Rep. Ron Paul of Texas. “Everybody else really disappoints me. I couldn’t distinguish a difference between them. He really stood out.”

If Paul is elected president, Ceribelli said the most important thing he wants him to do is “stick to the Constitution and keep to his voting record. If it is not in the Constitution, he votes ‘no.’ I think our forefathers were pretty intelligent people when they wrote that and they had the insight to see what kind of issues a country is going to have in the future. If there’s a problem with it, then amend the Constitution.”

He added, “The best thing he could do is get rid of the Federal Reserve. It’s a private corporation; they shouldn’t be controlling our money.”

Tim Sweetz, an information technology capacity planner, said he cast his ballot for McCain. “I like his military record. I think he’s the best candidate at this point for our country. Initially my number one candidate was Giuliani. But through the debates and things I’ve researched on all the candidates, I switched over to McCain. He has more experience.”

Sweetz added that he admired Huckabee. “I’m a Baptist, a Christian, myself. So that was very strong tie. My wife and I discussed it. We don’t really think he has enough of the national security experience that’s required at this time.”

Deomcrats face frustration
Democratic voters in Florida faced frustration Tuesday because the Democratic National Committee had punished the state Democrats for moving their primary outside the DNC-approved schedule. The DNC stripped Florida of its delegates to the national convention.

So Tuesday’s Democratic balloting was merely a “beauty contest” with no delegates at stake.

In the past week, Sen. Hillary Clinton has emphasized the Florida contest in an apparent attempt to make it a meaningful primary, even though all of the Democratic contenders agreed to not campaign here in person.

The stripping of Florida’s delegates angered some Democrats who came to vote Tuesday.

Frank Connell, a retiree who once worked for the city of Jacksonville, said, “I’m not too happy with my Democratic Party right now. I’m thinking about changing. I’d rather be an independent. I’ve been a Democrat ever since I was 18.”

As for the November election, Connell said that because he is a Vietnam War veteran, “I’m partial to McCain, even though I’m a Democrat. I’m not crazy about the other two (Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama). I don’t want another Clinton back in office. I don’t want no fellow whose name I can’t hardly say. It’s not a black or white issue.”

Payroll supervisor Peggy Teske said she’d voted for Clinton.

Image: Frank Connell
Tom Curry  /  msnbc.com
Unhappy with the Florida Democrats, Frank Connell is considering changing his registration to independent.
“I’m all about Hillary.” In an interesting Freudian slip, she then said, “When she was the vice president, she was just so intelligent, knowing that she could read pages and pages of information and remember it and retain it. If she put together a speech she didn’t have to have the teleprompter, she didn’t have to have someone feeding her information.”

Worried that Obama is 'too soft'
As for Clinton’s rival for the Democratic nomination, Teske said, “I’m worried Obama is a little too soft. He just seems a little young and smushy. I want smart and strong, someone who can sit down and make a decision and stick behind it.”

Another Jacksonville Democrat with doubts about Obama was retiree and Marine Corps veteran Virginia Newman who voted for Clinton Tuesday. “My daughter works full-time as a teacher and can’t even afford to carry medical insurance on her children. That’s bad, isn’t it?” She wants Clinton to fix the insurance problem.

As for Obama, “I don’t trust him because he’s too young. And there’s something there, I’m not sure what’s going on, but I just have a feeling that there’s someone backing him and that he’s not really his own person. I’ve had that sense all along. He came up too quick.”

But Internet entrepreneur Eric Moeller, who cast his ballot at precinct 4B at the Holiday Inn on Baymeadows Road said he voted for Obama because “I felt it was time for someone other than Clinton or Bush.”

He added, “The things I thinks he bring to the table are unique. The first time I heard somebody say, ‘Is he black enough,’ I got really angry because we’re not supposed to be voting for colors of people’s skin or gender. We’re supposed to be voting for who we think would be the best person to represent us, not only in our country but world wide.”

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