Giuliani's big gamble backfires in Florida

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The Independent US

As if things weren't grisly enough already, Rudy Giuliani hit the campaign trail in Florida yesterday wounded by fresh polls still pegging him a distant third in primary voting tomorrow. He was also robbed at the last moment of support from the state's Republican governor, Charlie Crist.

There was no mentioning Mr Crist as the former New York mayor courted the Jewish vote in a wealthy Boca Raton synagogue yesterday morning, touting his long record of standing by Israel and highlighting his commitment to combating the "Islamic terrorist war against the United States".

But the surprise announcement at the weekend that governor Crist was endorsing John McCain, the Arizona senator, in Florida was a particular affront to Mr Giuliani who has been counting on the Sunshine State to power his quest for the party's presidential nomination.

Moreover, Mr Giuliani has been alone among Republican runners fully supporting a call by Mr Crist for a National Catastrophic Fund to help Floridians get through hurricanes. The governor's endorsement of Mr McCain so close to voting day reflects the extremely tight battle between him and Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts.

Most state polls suggest Mr McCain may have an edge here, but only a slight one. Both are anxious to bag Florida's large tally of 57 nominating delegates and use a victory to move forward to Super Tuesday on 5 February when more than 20 states hold primaries.

Mr Giuliani drew an enthusiastic crowd to the Boca Raton synagogue, but some members of its Orthodox Jewish congregation privately expressed bafflement over his primaries strategy that essentially gambled everything on winning the contest in Florida. "Where has he been all this time?" asked a frustrated Daniel Katz, the largest donor to the synagogue.

A national tracking poll released last night by Rasmussen showed Republicans divided equally between Messrs Romney and McCain for their party's nomination with 27 per cent intending to vote for each.

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