Giuliani's Florida Gamble

By Michael D. Shear
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, January 12, 2008

For more than a month, former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani has been in self-imposed political exile, a virtual sideshow as he all but sat out the early primaries to wait for the 2008 presidential contest to arrive in Florida.

Now, being irrelevant appears to be taking a toll. Yesterday, Giuliani's campaign revealed that top aides are working without pay to save money, an indication that donors are growing restless as they watch the candidate finish repeatedly near the bottom of the GOP pack.

Campaign aides say that the money is still flowing in and that $7 million is on hand. But concerns have surfaced that donors may not be interested in throwing good money after bad. "Are they nervous? Sure," said one Washington donor close to the Giuliani campaign.

But the donor added: "Chaos is our friend. And right now, the Republican side is chaotic. The other candidates are in a circular firing squad."

Still, Giuliani is under increasing pressure to make sure he does not lose in Florida. He has stepped up his television advertising, beginning two new spots Thursday. He has proposed what his team calls the "largest tax cut in history." On Sunday, he will begin a three-day bus tour across Florida, complete with four or five appearances daily, a pace unheard of for the candidate in previous months.

"The field is still wide open, which is what we wanted," said campaign manager Michael DuHaime, the man behind what the team calls its "late-state" strategy to win the Republican nomination. "You want to avoid a whole lot of momentum for one candidate. The further we get into the calendar, the better it is for us."

DuHaime confirmed that he and more than a dozen other top advisers and consultants with large salaries stopped being paid as of Jan. 1. "It's about making sure that as much money as we can have, we have," he said in an interview.

But he said that most of the other campaign workers are still being paid and that the operation is financially healthy. "Most of our donors are people who believe in the candidate and believe in Rudy," he said. "This was a calculated strategy, understanding that this would be a time that other candidates would be in the news."

The past few days have been typical.

Yesterday, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee rallied with several hundred people in the small Michigan town of Birch Run, immediately returning to populist themes after a speech to business leaders in Detroit. Huckabee raised $1 million in the days after winning the Iowa primary and has set a goal of bringing in $10 million by Feb. 5 -- as much in the next month as he collected in almost all of 2007 -- from 40,000 donors.

Former senator Fred D. Thompson (Tenn.) grabbed the spotlight Thursday night with a harsh attack on Huckabee's conservative credentials.

Mitt Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, barnstormed Michigan yesterday and released another ad in the state, in which he pledges to "work every day to change Washington and bring us back, because Michigan is personal to me."

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