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Florida Update from Giuliani's Campaign

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Florida Update from Giuliani's Campaign

Election 2008

Florida Update from Giuliani's Campaign

Florida Update from Giuliani's Campaign

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The latest on the Florida presidential primary. Robert Siegel talks with NPR's Robert Smith, who's covering former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani's presidential bid. Then, Robert Siegel talks to Fred Siegel, author of The Prince of the City: Giuliani, New York and the Genius of American Life.


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.


And I'm Robert Siegel.

Judging from the early returns and the exit polls, it is not a good night for Rudy Giuliani in Florida. His running a distant third to John McCain and Mitt Romney with 37 percent of precincts reporting McCain has 34 percent of the vote; Romney, 32 percent of the vote; Giuliani, 16 percent of the vote; and Mike Huckabee, 14 percent. Ron Paul is running last with 3 percent.

NPR's Robert Smith is at Giuliani headquarters in Orlando.

And, Robert, Rudy Giuliani, really, his strategy was all about doing well in Florida, how would you describe the mood on this evening when he obviously isn't doing very well in Florida.

ROBERT SMITH: Well, I met one woman and she had a button that says choose to be happy, and I think that's what the hundred or so people here are doing. They're making the best of it. They're trying to sort of celebrate what they've manage to accomplish here. You know, they're holding their event at a - it's what they call the Portofino Bay Hotel, which is a fake Italian villa. So at least, there's this vacation sense here that they're hanging out on a piazza looking at a beautiful fountain and waiting for Rudy to come speak.

SIEGEL: Giuliani, of course, campaigned heavily on his having been the mayor of New York City at the time of 9/11 and having been some called him on those days, America's mayor, did you get the sense that he was having any traction with Florida voters other than New York (unintelligible) to Florida?

SMITH: I have to say, I don't think I spoke to a single person here who didn't at some point live on Long Island or Connecticut or one of the five boroughs. And it was really his base of support, and there's a lot of former New Yorkers here in Florida. The bad news, for Rudy Giuliani, is a lot of them are Democrats. And even worse news is those that are Republican, you know, I spoke to some out on the campaign trail, they said, I love Rudy Giuliani, I love what he did as mayor, but I just don't think he can win this nomination anymore. And they started to talk about all things about strategy and he should have won earlier. This was his base - the New Yorkers in Florida who are Republicans, and even they started to have doubts over the last few days.

SIEGEL: What do you think he goes from here?

SMITH: Well, that's the question that everybody's asking tonight. He says that he's going to attend the debate in California. This is what he said earlier today. All that may change. It becomes a very, very distant third. We're asking ourselves now. Does he go back to New York? Does he go on to California? Does he announce something tonight, or think about it? He has official said that he's going to wait until tomorrow morning and sort of assess what's going on.

SIEGEL: Okay. Robert Smith at Giuliani headquarters in Orlando.

Thanks a lot, Robert.

SMITH: You bet.

SIEGEL: And we should say that it's not altogether clear that Rudy Giuliani is going to run third in the Republican presidential primary, he's only a couple of points, 16 percent to 14 percent ahead of Mike Huckabee. And some of the latest areas, counties in Florida to report their votes are from the Panhandle where the polls were open until 8 p.m. Eastern time, 7 Central. And those votes could very well benefit Mike Huckabee and push Rudy Giuliani down to fourth place.

A: Giuliani, New York and the Genius of American Life."

Welcome to the program once again.

FRED SIEGEL: Thanks for having me, Robert.

SIEGEL: How does Rudy Giuliani handle moments like this - a loss, a disappointment?

SIEGEL: When he lost in New York in 1989, lost for mayor in New York in '89, he handled very well. He handled it with a plum. And I suspect he'll handle this with a plum. He sees to it when winding down these last few weeks, going through the motions. I think, after New Hampshire, the only chance he had was if Huckabee won South Carolina. When McCain won South Carolina, I think, was functionally over.

SIEGEL: Because he would be vying for the same kinds of voters that McCain would be going for. What do you think he'll now drop out? What does your gut tell you?

SIEGEL: God know - to judge by the tone of the people's, the flat tone of people's voices, yes, but I'm not sure what, you know, what they're thinking. If they finish behind Huckabee, most certainly, though.

SIEGEL: Do you think Giuliani would conceivably endorse another candidate. Or if he did, who do you think it might be?

SIEGEL: Well, he has enormous respect for John McCain, and he has a little use for Mitt Romney. In New Hampshire, Romney and Giuliani mixed it up vigorously. But in New Hampshire, Giuliani rarely said anything critical of McCain. He has enormous personal respect for McCain.

SIEGEL: Tell us about what he might do in public life, I suppose if there's a Republican administration, he might conceivably want to be part of it, but he has a pretty active life in the private sector.

SIEGEL: I think being rich and famous might well occupy him. I don't know if he'll want to go into administration, but I wouldn't rule it out, but I don't think it's likely.

SIEGEL: Many decades ago, JFK said something about the light and back of the cabinet secretary's limousine, if that was worth tens of thousands of dollars a year, right? But, you don't think Rudy Giuliani would be lured away from riches in the private sector.

SIEGEL: I'm not sure, I think he's grown accustom to the good life, and it would be - he's have to be very hungry for it, and I don't see it right now.

SIEGEL: I just want to get your judgment of something - Giuliani, whatever else he is, he's a shrewd man, he's an able man, his strategy of ducking a fight in one early state after another to try to stand in Florida has been regarded by political pros as just nuts, to put it very simply. No one - I mean, people were prepared for the miracle that would prove everyone wrong but it just seem to be a very odd strategy. How do we reconcile this rather extremely able and bright man with a not very bright campaign strategy?

SIEGEL: I wont think the analysis of this is very good.


SIEGEL: He was always drawn to the inside street because he always had a problem with social conservatives. That ruled out in Iowa. In New Hampshire, that's where they were mistakes. He should have stayed in fought Ne Hampshire, he might have come in third, ahead of Huckabee. But in New Hampshire, there was this funicular relationship between McCain and Giuliani. What I mean by that is, for every vote that McCain rose with Giuliani drop with. It was the same pool of voters. And what happened was, several things occurred simultaneously. McCain staunched the bleeding over immigration. The surge began to kick in politically. And those two things began to hail McCain up exactly the same time as there was series of negative stories about Giuliani and Judy Nathan. And that relationship, that McCain's rise is exactly proportional to Giuliani's fall. It's a story they campaign so far.

SIEGEL: So it looks - it doesn't look as bright in hindsight as it might have looked at things not worked out a little differently.

SIEGEL: Well, it depended more on New Hampshire than has been acknowledged. The idea of waiting for Florida was never in (unintelligible). The idea was to do well in New Hampshire.

And if you look at the polls in late November, he was doing very well. It's this conjuncture of forces. The McCain revival, largely, due to the surge, trouble Giuliani had in the press. Those two things put together help doom the campaign.

But then, they made a bad decision, they left New Hampshire then they came back. They should have stuck it out in New Hampshire. The last shot they had was South Carolina. They needed Huckabee to win in South Carolina. Had Fred Thompson drop out and Huckabee at one, they wouldn't look so bad today. The underlying problem, not just a (unintelligible) to an inside street but being independent on the street but being dependent on the campaigns of others to determine you fortunes.

SIEGEL: Well, Fred, thank you very much. Thank you for talking with us about it today.

SIEGEL: You're welcome.

SIEGEL: Fred Siegel, biographer of Rudolph Giuliani and a contributing editor to City Journal.

As of right now, 41 percent of the precincts have been counted in Florida. The lead is 3 percent, McCain, 35, Romney 32, and Rudy Giuliani pretty far back at 15 percent.

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