Roadtrippin' with Rudy

BOCA RATON, Fla.—Rudy Giuliani has seen better days.

Take, for example, Dec. 16, 2007, the day CNN and Gallup released a national poll showing Giuliani crushing his rivals for the Republican nomination by 11 points. Or, for that matter, any day before Dec. 16, 2007, when he led the field by as much as 24. In every single poll. Here in Florida, one need only look to Jan. 7—a mere three weeks ago—to find Giuliani up by seven. If you scroll back to November, the margin expands to 21.

But alas. Today, Giuliani trails Mitt Romney and John McCain by seven in the Sunshine State and places a distant fourth in national surveys behind McCain, Romney and Huckabee. If the early-state voters are to be trusted, Giuliani is currently a less viable contender for the GOP nod than Ron Paul. America's Mayor finished sixth in Iowa, fourth in New Hampshire and sixth again in South Carolina; Paul at least managed fifth-place finishes in the Hawkeye and Palmetto States.

It's not hard to see why. Despite what Michael Goodwin writes in today's New York Daily News—"RUDY GIULIANI COULDN'T OVERCOME HIS PRO-CHOICE STANCE"—it's pretty clear (to me, at least) that his downfall has less to do with departures from conservative orthodoxy (which were well-publicized by December, when he was still ahead) than a totally unfavorable primary schedule. Giuliani's strategists realized early on that a pugnacious, socially-liberal Italian-American couldn't compete in sweet, evangelical Iowa, so they retreated to anti-tax, northeastern New Hampshire, where they outspent and outadvertised everyone save Romney. But losing in Iowa made Rudy look like a loser, and so his Granite State poll numbers slipped, too. Looking ahead, the campaign saw South Carolina—no place for somewhat scandalized Yankee-—and Florida. They decided to stake it all on the delegate-rich land of snowbirds, immigrants, Jewish retirees and northeastern transplants. He'll finally be in his element, they thought.

But even though Giuliani hasn't campaigned anywhere else since the first week of January, Florida hasn't returned the favor. Thinking that we might not see much of Rudy after Tuesday's primary—Hizzoner himself has said it's a must-win at this point-—I've decided to spend the day "in his element" with him. Luckily, the campaign has scheduled a bus trip up the western coast of Florida that's almost cartoonishly Rudy. Honestly, for a fellow New Yorker, today's itinerary was just too good to resist: a morning stop at a Jewish synagogue in Boca Raton! Afternoon visits to a pizzeria in Port Saint Lucie and an Italian-American club in Vero Beach!  An evening rally at a New Jersey-based surf shop in Cocoa Beach! The decal on the side of Giuliani's bus says "Florida is Giuliani Country"—a fitting slogan considering that, while he may not win, at least he can get a decent slice while he's at it. 

I'll be posting short dispatches after each stop. Can you say roadtrip? It'll be just like we're back in the Big Apple.