Florida (Isn’t) Rudy Country

With the Michigan primaries set to run today, we will soon have the fourth primary out of the way for Republicans, and now that we’re knee deep in primary season, something seems to be missing.  It’s just, I can’t quite put my finger on it…  I know it’s there, it’s on the tip of my tongue, but…  what was that?  9/11?  OH!  Rudy!  That’s right, that’s what we’re missing!  We’re missing the one time front runner for the Republican party’s nomination.

Not long after the Republican party decided that McCain wasn’t going to be there man, it seemed as though Rudy Giuliani was destined to take up the mantle of presumptive nominee.  “America’s Mayor” had soared to the head of the pack with an impressive national lead with everyone else just a giant blurry mess in the rear view.  He was the man to watch, he was the man to beat, and then, strangely enough, Rudy disappeared.

Where did he go?  Well, apparently Rudy wasn’t up for the retail politics of Iowa and New Hampshire, had the wrong accent for South Carolina, didn’t care (like just about everyone else) about Wyoming, and, well, I just haven’t pinned down exactly why he might turn his nose up at Michigan and Nevada, but he did.

Nope, Rudy’s been enjoying that sunny Floridian weather and hoping to turn the largest early state on the agenda into his state just in time to pick up a media wave in time for Tsunami Tuesday.

Truthfully, what Giuliani is trying to pull off could prove or disprove the theories of many a political pundit out there who has tried to make sense of the accelerated primaries being held this year.  On the one hand, there are those who think that the system will largely remain the same, in which case, Rudy’s in trouble.  Having never even really fought serious battles in the early states, by the time things get to Florida, he’s already going to be sunk.  But if those forward thinking people who said the early early states aren’t going to play that big of a role this time around, Rudy should be looking good right?

Well…  maybe not.  You see, apparently Forida isn’t exactly Rudy country, despite the fact that he’s campaigning in the state like a madman.  As the LA Times reports, Giuliani is out there, he’s spreading his message, and he’s working the stump, but people aren’t tuning in, they’re not getting energized.  What’s more, this on the streets observation of the lack of Rudy-mania is backed up by polling trends that show that Rudy has been steadily declining since, well, the moment they started taking polls.  This same data showing Huckabee and Romney both in striking distance while McCain has actually polled better than Giuliani in a couple of instances.

What’s this all mean?  Rudy’s pretty much betting the farm on Florida.  He once upon a time could hold a claim to a national strategy but the late surges by both Huckabee and McCain have essentially stuffed Rudy down to third place, truly making the race for him Florida or bust.  Unfortunately, Florida is not like Iowa or New Hampshire.  The heavy campaigning in those small and lightly populated states is hard enough on presidential wannabes, Rudy’s trying to pull off the same trick in one of the largest and most populous states in the country.

And he’s doing it against the wind.  Not only does he face the sheer math of the thing, by not proving to be competitive in any of the states preceding Florida, he can’t even look forward to catching a strong good news bump.  This unlike those three candidates mentioned above who can give Rudy a run for his money.  Victories by any of the McCain, Huckabee, Romney trio could push enough headlines and garner enough free press to bury Rudy under the bus driving to victory in Florida.

And if Rudy manages to lose Florida, the state he’s pretty much remained in while the rest of the field has been galavanting about the country, that pretty much could spell the end for the man who led the pack during most of the preseason.

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