Giuliani Seeks Out a Warmer Welcome
By Juliet Eilperin
LARGO, Florida -- Given that it's snowing in Iowa and near freezing in New Hampshire, GOP presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani chose Wednesday to reach out to the voters in a state that falls later in the primary calendar but unquestionably offers better weather for out-of-town guests: Florida.
Floridians head to the polls Jan. 29, three weeks after New Hampshire residents and nearly a month after Iowans, but the former New York mayor said he sees the Sunshine State as key to helping him secure his party's nomination in 2008. Joined by the state's Attorney General Bill McCollum (R), Giuliani met with veterans in a brief closed-door meeting at American Legion Post 119 in Largo, Fla. and then chatted with reporters about the role voters here will play in the upcoming presidential contest.
When asked whether winning Florida was essential for his candidacy, Giuliani replied, "The thing that is essential is to win enough primaries to win enough votes. Are you asking me, is this really important? Of course it is."
And while all the other Republicans candidates are focusing their efforts right now on Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, Giuliani argued that Florida -- along with the 20 states that will vote on Feb. 5 -- will help determine who eventually wins the GOP presidential nod.
"I don't know where we're going to be on January 29th. The people of Florida will make their own decision on who will be the best Republican candidate," he said. "By the time we get to Florida on January 29th it's going to be early enough for Florida to make its own statement."
Giuliani, who has visited Florida at least two dozen times since announcing his presidential bid, told the World War Two veterans he met with that he backed increased military spending in order to continue waging the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. He also dismissed the idea that his candidacy, which has been in part focused on how well he could compete against New York Sen. Hillary Clinton (D), would falter if Sen. Barack Obama (D-Iowa) or former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) ended up as their party's nominee.
"I would say it's the same issues," he said, citing health care and Iraq as issues on which all of the three Democrats agree. "Even the electoral map looks pretty much the same when we look at any one of the three."
And while Giuliani took a couple of days off from campaigning last week after complaining of severe headaches, he told reporters today he had received a clean bill of health after being "checked up and down, inside and outside.. I'm feeling great. I'm feeling terrific."
Giulia's personal physician said all the tests came back normal and he has prescribed no medication for him. "It is my medical opinion that Rudy Giuliani is in very good health," Dr. Valetin Fuster said.
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