MIAMI (CNN) - In early results in Florida's Republican primary, Arizona Sen. John McCain and former Massachussetts Gov. Mitt Romney appeared at the top of the field in a winner-take-all battle for the delegate-rich state.
With 19 percent of precincts reporting, McCain had 34 percent of the vote and Romney had 31 percent. Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee were in a tight contest for third - with a middle-of-the-pack finish threatening to deal a crushing blow to Giuliani's hopes.
Based on exit polls and early results, CNN was predicting that Giuliani could not finish first or second.
Giuliani had 17 percent and Huckabee was at 13 percent in the early going.
Florida has 57 delegates to the GOP nominating convention - making it by far the largest state yet to vote. It is also a "winner take all" state, meaning that all of those delegates will be going to the top finisher, not split based on the percentage each candidate earns.
National polls beginning last year pegged Giuliani as the early favorite in the race for the Republican nomination. But he chose to ignore early contests - in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina - banking on a big result in Florida.
Early exit polls on Tuesday suggest that many of the moderate voters Giuliani - a big city mayor whose views on issues like abortion and immigration haven't always jibed with more conservative voters - were flocking to McCain.
Forty-one percent of Florida voters who described themselves as moderates said they voted for McCain, compared to 22 percent for Giuliani.