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January 29, 2008

Should Rudy Pull Out If He Loses Florida?

Rudy Giuliani gambled the entire campaign on the idea that he could wait out the early states and focus on the first major winner-take-all primary in Florida. That gamble plays out today, and most of the polling shows that Rudy won't come close to a victory, meaning he will head into Super Tuesday with almost no delegates at all. He remains confident of victory, but ...:

Also campaigning in Florida was Giuliani, who led throughout 2007 but rapidly lost ground once voting began this month.

Despite the polls, Giuliani insisted he can come from behind: "This is a place where we have to test ourselves," Giuliani told reporters between campaign appearances. "The winner of Florida will win the nomination; we're going to win Florida."

Asked if a loss would end his campaign, Giuliani said: "Wednesday morning, we'll make a decision."

Giuliani has said a number of times that he believes the winner of Florida will win the Republican nomination. He repeated that on the Hugh Hewitt show last night, and as the story notes, to several reporters as well. That sounds like a line in the sand, one which Giuliani will have trouble crossing in the event he loses.

I'm not sure he's correct in the theoretical sense. Mitt Romney could win Florida and McCain could still win the nomination, and the reverse is also true. The big coastal states with the largest delegate counts all go at once this year on February 5th, which makes the impact from Florida less certain. But in the context of this primary, Giuliani probably doesn't have a path to the nomination unless he can win a state before Super Tuesday. The race becomes a two-man contest without a Rudy win in Florida.

That's too bad, too, because Rudy would make a good nominee. He has a great track record and the kind of campaign style that would be a success across the nation. His choice to hunker down in Florida played against those strengths. It's easy to be a Monday morning quarterback, and I originally thought he had chosen the winning strategy, too. Unless he gets a miracle tonight, the dice just came up snake eyes.


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