New Yorkers are a presumptuous lot, especially about Florida. So many have moved there or vacation there, they think they can wear their Yankees caps around like they run the joint. Perhaps that's why Rudy Giuliani sees Florida as his Cape Canaveral: the launching pad for his better-later-than-never campaign. Having finished way back in the pack in Iowa and New Hampshire, he is on the air in Florida with a million-dollar ad buy and on the ground with a multi-stop bus tour. He and his cash-tight campaign will work the state straight through until the primary on Jan. 29.
At first glance, his "wait for Florida" strategy, which depends on a muddle in the GOP until then, remains plausible. He benefited from Mike Huckabee's win in Iowa, which exposed Mitt Romney's lack of appeal, while elevating a man many party insiders think cannot win in the fall. John McCain's victory in New Hampshire fragmented the field further, and polls are inconclusive in the primary and caucus states between now and Florida. "The party is divided geographically, demographically and ideologically," says GOP pollster John McLaughlin, who is working for Fred Thompson.
But that's where the good news ends for Giuliani. Even if Florida might be congenial territory, the ideological lay of the land in his party is not. Of the three groups that compose the modern GOP—hawks, who want an aggressive foreign policy; evangelicals, who fret about family values, and tax cutters, who think government asphyxiates economic growth—Rudy has yet to find a home in one. Huckabee, the preacher turned politician, has pretty much won the contest for the evangelicals, though they were never going to be on Rudy's team.
Rudy had a chance to secure the hawks, citing his role as America's Mayor. But McCain, touting his war history, his military expertise and his support for the troop surge, rolled over Rudy in New Hampshire like Gen. George Patton crossing the Rhine. And it's not as if Giuliani was absent from the battlefield. He campaigned in the state more often than any other candidate besides McCain, and spent more on ads than anybody but Romney or McCain. They featured scenes of terrorist-generated carnage, suggesting Rudy is best equipped to handle a dangerous world. But he retreated in New Hampshire once it was clear McCain was going to win. "Giuliani is in danger of becoming a man without a country," says Ed Rogers, an unaffiliated GOP consultant.
That explains Rudy's behavior now. For the first time, he's challenging McCain directly on defense matters. In a debate last week, the former mayor said that he, too, had supported the surge on the night the president announced it. McCain noted he'd been agitating for a stronger military presence in Iraq from the start of the war. "John McCain caused the surge!" says adviser Charlie Black. "Rudy's out of this part of the ballgame."
Which leaves the tax-cut crowd. There, Rudy has room. Supply-siders don't like McCain: he voted against the 2003 tax cuts. Huckabee supports a consumption tax, which scares tax cutters who think we'll end up with both an income tax and a national sales tax. Rudy is now pushing a kitchen-sink-full of tax cuts he claims add up to the largest in history. He'll be offering them almost door-to-door in Florida. Just look for the guy in the Yankees cap.