Giuliani Campaign Never Really Got Going After a weak third-place finish in Florida — a state he had counted on winning — former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani is expected to drop out of the Republican presidential race. Reports indicate he will endorse Sen. John McCain.
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Giuliani Campaign Never Really Got Going

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Giuliani Campaign Never Really Got Going

Giuliani Campaign Never Really Got Going

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And I'm Renee Montagne.

When John McCain claimed victory in Florida last night, he spoke like a man who expects to be his party's nominee. He was especially generous toward other candidates whose support any Republican nominee would eventually need.

Senator JOHN McCAIN (Republican, Arizona; Presidential Candidate): I offer my best wishes to Governor Romney and his supporters. You fought hard.

(Soundbite of applause)

Sen. McCAIN: You fought hard for your candidate. And the margin that separated us tonight surely isn't big enough for me to brag about or for you to despair.

MONTAGNE: John McCain won Florida with 36 percent of the vote to Romney's 31.

INSKEEP: McCain was even more generous in his praise of another candidate whose supporters do have cause for despair this morning. Rudolph Giuliani finished far behind. He attracted only 15 percent of the votes despite a campaign strategy that focused almost exclusively on Florida. Now, the former mayor of New York is expected to drop out of the race and endorse his friend, John McCain.

NPR's Robert Smith reports from Orlando.

(Soundbite of cheering)

Mr. RUDOLPH GIULIANI (Former Republican Mayor, New York; Presidential Candidate): Thank you.

ROBERT SMITH: As Giuliani walked onto the stage last night, a woman from the crowd shouted out, it's not over.

Mr. GIULIANI: I think that comes from the great American philosophy, Yogi Berra…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GIULIANI: …right? It's not over until it's over.

SMITH: But in Giuliani's case, it never really began. The 15 percent of the vote he got in Florida was his best showing by far in the primaries - a string of embarrassing fifth and sixth place finishes for a man the media once anointed as the front-runner. It didn't take long before the crowd started to notice that Giuliani was speaking about his campaign in the past tense and with a sense of nostalgia.

Mr. GIULIANI: The responsibility of leadership doesn't end with a single campaign. If you believe in a cause, it goes on, and you continue to fight for it, and we will.

(Soundbite of applause)

SMITH: It's not like supporters of Rudy Giuliani weren't mentally prepared for this. Even his fans, like Ralph Lovalo(ph) of Longwood, Florida, have started to second guess his strategy of skipping the early contests.

Mr. RALPH LOVALO (Resident, Longwood, Florida): I question why he didn't run very hard in Iowa and run very hard in New Hampshire. And I think that that hurt him here in Florida because a lot of times, people like to back a winner.

SMITH: The strategy might have worked if everything else had gone Giuliani's way, but it didn't.

Doug Muzzio is a professor of public affairs at Baruch College in New York.

Professor DOUGLAS MUZZIO (Public Affairs Professor, Baruch College of the City University of New York): During the month of January, not only was he under the radar, he was six feet under. He was below Ron Paul, while McCain, who would share some of the base with Giuliani - national security, not that conservative - took off and gained momentum.

SMITH: It started to seem like those early polls, the ones that had Giuliani leading in just about every state, were based on Rudy the celebrity, not Rudy the candidate.

Prof. MUZZIO: Wait, it was Rudy Giuliani, America's mayor, you know, the mythical Rudy Giuliani that was running for a long time.

SMITH: The flesh-and-blood Giuliani never seemed in sync with voters. He hammered on September 11th and terrorism, even as polls showed that people are more concerned with economic issues. He talked about victory in Iraq, even when the news from Baghdad moved off the front page.

But last night, Giuliani seemed more relaxed and happy than he'd looked in days. He made jokes and smiled. He didn't spoil the mood by formally dropping out of the race, and the crowd played along. A woman yelled out, they'll be sorry. And Giuliani blew her a kiss.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GIULIANI: You sound like my mother.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GIULIANI: If she were here, if she were here.

SMITH: Robert Smith, NPR News, Orlando.

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