Senator John McCain edged out Mitt Romney to win the delegate-rich Florida primary on Tuesday night, solidifying his transformation from left-for-dead candidate to a front-runner and dealing a devastating blow to the presidential hopes of Rudolph W. Giuliani, whose distant finish here threatened to doom his candidacy.
Republican officials said Tuesday night that Mr. Giuliani was likely to endorse the Arizona senator, possibly as early as Wednesday in California.
Mr. McCain’s narrow victory showed he could win in a state where only Republicans were allowed to vote ”” not just in states like New Hampshire and South Carolina, where his earlier victories were fueled in part by independent voters. And in Florida, even a slim victory is sweet: the state awards its 57 delegates, the most of any contest yet, on a winner-take-all basis.
With more than 90 percent of the precincts reporting, Mr. McCain had 36 percent of the vote, Mr. Romney 31 percent, Mr. Giuliani 15 percent and Mike Huckabee 13 percent.
“We have a ways to go, but we’re getting close,” Mr. McCain said to supporters gathered here. He described himself as a “Republican conservative,” though he drew strong support in Florida from moderate and socially liberal voters.