What happened
With Rudy Giuliani and John Edwards out of the presidential nominating fights, the newly narrowed fields head into next week’s Super Tuesday contests focused on two candidates in each party. Mitt Romney accused John McCain of being out of step with the Republican party’s base hours after Giuliani gave McCain a boost with his endorsement. Democrats Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama praised Edwards’ leadership on anti-poverty issues as they headed into a debate Thursday—the first in which they will be the only candidates on stage. (The New York Times, free registration)

What the commentators said
Thank you, Florida, said The Boston Globe in an editorial (free registration). Sunshine State voters were the ones who finally prodded Giuliani and Edwards off the stage by branding them, once and for all, as distant also-rans on Tuesday. The “shift in the landscape” was quite impressive, coming from a state that was stripped of most of its delegates for moving its primary earlier.

The “once muddled” presidential field certainly “sorted itself out with surprising speed,” said The Washington Post in an editorial (free registration). McCain has the momentum among Republicans, but faces a “formidable and deep-pocketed opponent” in Romney. Obama and Clinton are very close on most key policy questions, so Democrats will have to decide who has shown “the character and judgment to succeed as president”—and Clinton has outdone Obama so far in the “cheap-shot department.”

It’s hard to believe “we’re really down to four,” said Gail Collins in The New York Times (free registration), “and tonight the Democrats have a debate involving only two people. Has anybody ever tried this before?” Let’s hope Clinton and Obama seize the opportunity to set a new tone for their “testy” rivalry. “Hillary could start by purging her campaign of the lingering sense that the presidency is her due and anyone who stands in her way is a particularly mean chauvinist.” Obama might try admitting that voters can “reach for a greater tomorrow while voting for somebody else.”

See what you missed if you voted by absentee ballot several weeks early, said Patt Morrison in the Los Angeles Times (free registration). If you voted by mail “a political eternity ago”—before Obama and Clinton’s “nasty go-around” in South Carolina, and before Giuliani, Edwards, Fred Thompson, Bill Richardson, and Dennis Kucinich dropped out—“you blew your vote.” Sorry “early birds,” you can’t change your mind now.