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Jon Voight, Yes. Deliverance, No.

With actor Jon Voight looking on, Rudy Giuliani signs autographs for a "crowd" in Sarasota.
With actor Jon Voight looking on, Rudy Giuliani signs autographs for a "crowd" in Sarasota. (By Gerald Herbert -- Associated Press)

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By Dana Milbank
Tuesday, January 29, 2008

SANFORD, Fla. Just when it seemed nothing else could go wrong for Rudy Giuliani, the actor Jon Voight got up to introduce the candidate at an airport rally here Monday and found a malfunctioning microphone.

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"This is a [inaudible] man," the father of Angelina Jolie told the meager crowd. "I saw firsthand all the greatest of the [inaudible]. . . . I wound up in [inaudible]. . . . But, anyway, I saw the [inaudible]."

Voight finally decided to speak without the microphone. "This thing is not working very well," he observed.

No, it isn't.

Last year, the former New York mayor towered above the Republican presidential field with a lead of more than 2 to 1 over his nearest competitor. But now, after a thumping in the first five presidential contests, he's making a last stand Tuesday in Florida's primary. Polls show he'll be lucky to place third here in the state that Giuliani himself described as his must-win primary.

Cue the vultures.

A 50-strong press corps manned the death watch Monday, Giuliani's final day of campaigning in Florida. His first rally, in the Orlando area, attracted only 100 non-journalists -- and about a quarter of those were foreign visitors participating in a State Department program. The crowd at his second event (in St. Petersburg, where 120 people fit into a corner of a cavernous airport hangar) would have been appropriate for a city council race. The gathering at the next stop, on the tarmac in Fort Myers, was 115.

By the time Giuliani reached Fort Lauderdale in the evening, the crowd had shrunk to 75, producing an embarrassing media-and-staff-to-supporter ratio of about 2 to 1. Giuliani hurried through his speech, then hid himself inside a hangar for 45 minutes.

"I see dead people," ABC News's Jake Tapper wrote in his blog Monday morning, comparing Giuliani to Bruce Willis in "The Sixth Sense": "Everyone except for him knows he's not alive." The Orlando Sentinel, in the Monday paper in which it endorsed John McCain, judged that Giuliani is "fighting it out for third" behind McCain and Mitt Romney.

But the candidate remained resolutely in denial. "We're going to win Florida tomorrow," he announced to the gathering in Sanford. Aboard Giuliani's plane, reporters regarded that boast with skepticism. "I believe we're going to win," Giuliani repeated to the death-watchers.

"Have you boxed yourself into a corner, though, by saying that the winner of Florida will win the Republican nomination?"

"We're going to win Florida," Giuliani said once more.

CONTINUED     1        >

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