Giuliani campaigns at St. Pete-Clearwater Airport

01/28/08 Seán Kinane
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The day before Florida’s presidential primary, the person who has bet virtually his entire candidacy on this state campaigned in Clearwater. Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who is polling a distant third among Republicans, spoke to about 100 supporters this afternoon in a hanger at the St. Petersburg-Clearwater airport.

“If we win in Florida, we’re going to win everyplace else. Florida is going to lead the way,” Guiliani told supporters.

According several recent polls, Giuliani trails both John McCain and Mitt Romney among likely Republican voters in Florida. The two front-runners are nearly neck-and-neck, each with about 30 percent support, while Giuliani is polling at about fifteen percent, slightly ahead of Mike Huckabee.

Giuliani has not campaigned hard, nor finished among the top three, in the six states to vote before Florida. So a win in the Sunshine State is nearly essential for Giuliani’s survival as a candidate. He said Florida residents have told him they are having a difficult time affording property insurance. Giuliani has called for an insurance fund that would protect against major disasters like hurricanes.

“I favor and will fight for a national catastrophe fund so that your insurance rates will be reasonable and you’ll be able to have insurance. … I’m the only Republican candidate who supports that fund and it is vital for the people of Florida. It’s vital for the people all over the country.”

Giuliani wants to increase the size of all the branches of the military and the spy agencies.

In his Clearwater speech, Giuliani promised to partially privatize Social Security.

Florida’s primary will be the first that is “closed,” voters who are not registered with either of the two major political parties may not vote for their presidential preference. That could hurt candidates that have gotten support from independents or “third-party” voters. It could favor candidates who appeal more to the base of their party.

Some states apportion their delegates based on how many votes a candidate gets. But Florida’s primary is a “winner-take-all” election. No delegates are awarded to candidates who finish in second place or lower. Because Florida moved its primary election to earlier than Feb. 5, both major parties punished the state. The Democratic Party has said that the winner of Florida’s primary will get no delegates. The Republican Party has taken half of the delegates away from the winner of Florida’s GOP primary. Despite that, Giuliani has still campaigned hard in the state.

He said he would appoint conservative judges and allow parents to choose the schools their children attend. Giuliani also wants to give a tax break to people who can afford to purchase private health insurance.

On Saturday, Gov. Charlie Crist made a surprise endorsement of John McCain. According to the St. Petersburg Times, Crist had told Giuliani that he would endorse the former New York City Mayor last November. Giuliani was introduced in Clearwater by supporters such as Rep. Leslie Waters, actor Jon Voight, and Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Another supporter, Florida’s Attorney General Bill McCollum, predicted that Crist’s endorsement of McCain would have little impact.

There were Giuliani supporters in the audience, as well as voters who were still undecided, and at least one Giuliani detractor. Barry Quinn is not registered to vote because he is a resident alien working toward citizenship, but he called himself a “big Rudy fan.”

Evelyn Collins is from Largo and plans to vote but hasn’t made up her mind yet.

Port Richie resident Tom Lincoln will vote in the primary. He hasn’t made up his mind, except that he won’t vote for Rudy Giuliani.

Mary Lou Clark from Wesley Chapel plans on voting for Giuliani.

Florida's presidential primary is Tuesday. You can vote from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. All registered voters can vote on the property tax measure known as Amendment 1 and Pinellas voters will decide whether to keep their one-half mill tax for schools.

Photo credit: Seán Kinane/WMNF

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