Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani speaks as his wife, Judith, looks on during a post-primary campaign rally in Orlando, Fla., on Tuesday.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Giuliani blows a kiss to supporters at a hotel in Orlando, Fla., on Tuesday.
As former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani walked to the microphone last night, a woman from the crowd shouted, "It's not over."
But in Giuliani's case, it never really began. The 15 percent of the vote he received in Florida was, by far, his best showing in the primaries, following a string of embarrassing fifth- and sixth-place finishes for a man the media once anointed the front-runner.
It did not take long for the crowd to notice that Giuliani was speaking about his campaign in the past tense. "The responsibility of leadership doesn't end with a single campaign. If you believe in a cause, it goes on," he told supporters.
Giuliani is expected to drop out of the race Wednesday and endorse his friend John McCain.
It's not like supporters of Giuliani were not mentally prepared. Even his fans, like Ralph LaVallo of Longwood, Fla., had started to second-guess his strategy of skipping early contests.
"I question why he didn't run very hard in Iowa or run very hard in New Hampshire. I think that hurt him in Florida because people like to back a winner," LaVallo said.
The strategy might have worked if everything else had gone Giuliani's way and if his Republican rivals had not received so much momentum from their wins in other early primary states.
"During the month of January, not only was he under the radar, but he was six feet under. He was below Ron Paul," said Douglas Muzzio, a professor of public affairs at Baruch College in New York.
It started to seem like those early polls, which had Giuliani leading in just about every state, were an illusion based on the Giuliani legend.
The flesh and blood of Giuliani never seemed in sync with the mood of voters. He harped on Sept. 11and the fear of terrorism, even as polls showed that people were more concerned with the economy. He talked about victory in Iraq, even when the news from Baghdad moved off the front page.
By last night, Giuliani looked more relaxed and happy than he had seemed in days. He made jokes and smiled broadly. He did not spoil the mood by formally dropping out, and the crowd played along. A woman yelled out, "They'll be sorry." Giuliani blew her a kiss.