FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - It's just seven days before the Iowa caucuses and 12 days until the New Hampshire primary, pivotal events that usually propel top finishers toward presidential nominations. And Rudolph Giuliani is spending his precious, limited time on the campaign trail - in South Florida.
Though he'll hit Iowa and New Hampshire over the weekend, political analysts said the itinerary that has him spending more time in the Sunshine State than in the snowy states this week is revealing.
"He really needs to win Florida," said Aubrey Jewett, associate professor of political science at the University of Central Florida. "He was kind of taking that for granted, but he can't any more. At this point it looks as if Florida will make or break Rudy Giuliani's campaign."
Giuliani is trailing not only in Iowa and New Hampshire, but in three other early states, said Nicol Rae, political science professor at Florida International University.
And as Giuliani's chance of doing well in any of the other early states has faded, a strong performance in Florida on Jan. 29 has become even more critical.
The campaign is counting on a Florida victory to overcome likely losses and provide Giuliani with the juice he'll need for Tsunami Tuesday a week later. That's the day when many believe the Republican and Democratic presidential contests will be settled because 22 states are holding primaries.
Early in the campaign, Giuliani staked his presidential hopes on Florida, with its large population of former New Yorkers and pockets of socially moderate Republicans in South Florida.
But former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee has complicated the political calculus for Giuliani supporters.
Huckabee is doing especially well in Iowa, and the latest RealClearPolitics average of Florida polls of Republican voters shows Giuliani ahead of Huckabee by just 2 percentage points. The four-poll average in Florida shows Giuliani with 25.3 percent and Huckabee with 23.3 percent. *