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McCain, Palin and the Florida XX factor

Sen. John McCain made history Friday when he chose a fresh-faced female governor as a running mate to help him target one of the most crucial voting blocs in the nation and Florida: women.

In choosing Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to be the first woman on a Republican presidential ticket, McCain seized the media spotlight from Sen. Barack Obama -- the first black presidential nominee from a major political party.

''She's exactly who I need. She's exactly what this country needs,'' McCain said in introducing Palin. He said she made him ``especially proud . . . in the week we celebrate the anniversary of women's suffrage.''

But Palin's pick isn't about making history. It's about winning the White House. It's about gender -- and the chance to drive a deeper wedge between female voters and Obama.

Exit polls show that Republicans win Florida when they win nearly half the female vote. And when they win Florida, Republicans usually win the White House. But after months of hinting that Florida Gov. Charlie Crist would be his running mate, McCain called Crist on Friday to say he was going with Palin.

Polls suggest Obama is leading McCain among women voters by less than 15 percentage points in Florida but has more trouble with women 35 to 55. Voters over 65, who tend to be women in Florida, appear to favor the 72-year-old McCain.

Obama's decision to pick Sen. Joe Biden, instead of Sen. Hillary Clinton, as a running mate didn't help. That might be especially true in Florida, where white females voted for Clinton over Obama by almost a 3-to-1 margin in the Jan. 29 primary, exit polls show.

During her debut speech Friday in Dayton, Ohio, Palin won applause for talking about how she stood up to the ''ole boy network.'' And she made sure to invoke Clinton and the 18 million votes she received in the Democratic primaries.

Full story here