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An Intense Florida Focus for Giuliani

By Joel Achenbach
JACKSONVILLE, Fla., 3:50 p.m. -- A couple of hundred people have gathered at the veterans' memorial wall next to the football stadium. A large American flag hangs from a firetruck's cherry picker, flirting with the horizontal as it flaps in a chilly zephyr. Rock music blares from a sound system as a color guard stands at attention. There's an eternal flame front and center. The Giuliani buses should be here any minute, having adhered perfectly to the schedule after yesterday's logistical problems.

Giuliani has covered a lot of territory today, from the orange groves in the central spine of the state to the scrub of Northeast Florida. He's had an excellent tour of all the palmettos and pine trees along I-4 and I-95. Plus the occasional live oak, heavily colonized by Spanish moss.

This morning he stopped at Disney World, eschewing the obvious photo-op at the Magic Kingdom's Hall of Presidents to instead visit the Coronado resort (the nice fellow who gave me a lift in a golf cart said it has 190,000 square feet of convention space, meaning it's almost as large as John Edwards's house!) to pick up the endorsement of the National Troopers Coalition.

"He's the only candidate who's been crisis-tested," said the group's president, Dennis Hallion.

He also visited low-key New Smyrna Beach, where organizers had hoped for a hundred people but got several times that, including Bill Clark, 72, a retired fireman who, when asked why he liked Giuliani, responded with a line the campaign might want to adopt: "When 9/11 happened, he proved you don't have to be 10 feet high to be a giant."

Giuliani also gave an interview to Reuters touting his advocacy of tax cuts, including cuts to the corporate tax rate, which he believes is hurting the U.S. in the global economy. Now he'll make his pitch to Jacksonville, which this reporter (who grew up about one long spit of a watermelon seed from here) distinctly recalls as a backwater in the 1970s. It's now a much spiffier place, with bank towers, riverfront bistros and a pro football team that did pretty well until it collided with the Patriots a few days ago.

"It was the Bold New City of the South, then The River City. It is now The Place Where Florida Begins," says Richard Clark, 37, a city councilman who runs a janitorial business. He says it's also a place where Giuliani's pitch will play well. The city has a booming port (Giuliani advocates engaging the global economy), low unemployment, but a high crime rate. Clark says the murder rate is the highest per capita of any city in Florida. "We need to find a way to stop it -- and he did that."

In New York City, he means. The New York Turnaround is a staple of any Giuliani conversation at one of his events. In fact his supporters tend to mention the city's fortunes even more often than they talk about Giuliani's handling of 9/11.

Jeff Bigman, 49, an attorney in Daytona, cites the NY Turnaround in explaining his Giuliani preference, and adds, "I think McCain has switched on a lot of issues, and is too old for the presidency. Romney seems -- I hate to use the word -- plastic to me."

Giuliani spokeswoman Maria Comella says the former mayor has 6,000 volunteers in Florida and will campaign here virtually nonstop until Jan. 29.

By Web Politics Editor  |  January 15, 2008; 5:35 PM ET
Categories:  Joel's Florida Diary  
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lylepink: You're most definitely wrong. Hillary Clinton is indubitably the most polarizing Democrat, and has the highest negatives of any candidate in this campaign. She really is the GOP's only hope of winning this election, because only she can motivate the GOP base to vote (against her) when they have such uninspiring candidates themselves.

Check out any national matchup poll, and you'll find that she's the least electable of the three major Democratic candidates.

Posted by: winstonsalem | January 16, 2008 10:12 AM | Report abuse

wmboyd: I was alerted to your Post by a Obama supporter on another Blog. You have one little thing wrong. The Repubs are changing their registration to vote for Obama, not Hillary. I have been Posting this information for months about the Repubs all out effort to stop Hillary and any cost/price, because they KNOW they cannot beat her in the GE. That is FACT my friend.

Posted by: lylepink | January 15, 2008 11:34 PM | Report abuse

For those of you who have an agenda involving a candidate other than Rudy, well, it's your right to post what you want. I AM getting a little tired, however, of reading the same tired anti-Giuliani talking points over and over again.

My personal favorite is this refrain:

Crime goes down in NYC: nope, Giuliani had nothing to do with it

Economy improves dramatically in NYC: again, NOT Giuliani - can't be

9/11? Oh yeah, that was so TOTALLY Giuliani's fault!

Get real folks (or at least get consistent.)

For those here who maybe, just maybe are possibly open to hearing some facts about Rudy, here are some responses to these tired talking points:

Anti-Guiliani talking point #1: Rudy left NYC with a deficit.

Not sure where this one came from, but here's a good headline to look at: "Mayor Giuliani Inherited $2.3 Billion Budget Deficit And Turned It Into Multi-Billion Dollar Surplus." (Steven Lee Myers, "A Deficit Revisited," The New York Times, 7/31/94.) Yeah, that's right - the New York Times!

Anti-Giuliani talking point #2: Bernie Kerik might be a bad guy.

One of the best qualities I think any person can have is loyalty. The flip side of loyalty is that sometimes, it can really bite you in the ass. 'nuff said.

Anti-Giuliani talking point #3: Well, crime was going down throughout the U.S., so it's not like Rudy really accomplished anything.

NYC's crime reduction was THREE TO SIX TIMES THE NATIONAL AVERAGE! NYC became (and remains) the safest big city in America!

Anti-Giuliani talking point #4: Rudy's been married three times.

Honestly, I could give a rat's ass how many times a candidate has been married, as long as I know he can get the job done. Rudy can get the job done.

And you know what? Let's put all of this stuff aside, because we have bigger fish to fry. For anyone just tuning in, the next 4 to 8 years are going to be a bumpy ride in the U.S. The biggest problem we're going to face? The terrorists was against us (they're just getting warmed up, folks - seriously!) In 1995, NYC hosted a big event at Lincoln Center for various foreign dignitaries. Guess who crashed the party? None other than Yasser Arafat. Rudy's response? HE THREW HIS TERRORIST ASS OUT THE DOOR! When the city's liberal elite cried foul, Giuliani replied, "I would not invite Yasser Arafat to anything, anywhere, anytime, anyplace. I don't forget."

Neither will we, Rudy. No matter what happens over the next few weeks, we will NEVER forget.

Posted by: josephsans | January 15, 2008 9:32 PM | Report abuse

If pollsters thought they had a problem in NH wait 'til they see Florida results. Most "voters" won't tell them, but a lot of Republicans switched parties just before the cut-off on the 31st so they could vote for Hillary because she's the best chance we have to retain the White House regardless of who our nominee is.

Posted by: wmboyd | January 15, 2008 6:15 PM | Report abuse

Smart, for he is _not_ the one being searched for on the internet down there in Florida, it is Ron Paul. See the report here:

Posted by: davidmwe | January 15, 2008 5:58 PM | Report abuse

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