Giuliani turns to prayer in Florida

January 13, 2008 5:45:03 PM PST
With his plan for winning the GOP presidential nomination riding largely on a Florida victory at the end of the month, Rudy Giuliani asked an evangelical congregation for prayers instead of votes Sunday and quoted scripture to evoke a message of hope and perseverance. "I'm not coming here to ask for your vote," he said. "That's up to you and it's not the right place. But I am coming here to ask you for something very special and more important: I'm asking for your prayers."

While other Republican candidates are focused on Tuesday's Michigan primary, Giuliani is following a strategy of pushing for a Jan. 29 victory in Florida he hopes will propel him toward a dominant showing on Feb. 5, when more than 20 states hold primaries and caucuses, and then on to the nomination.

Once a strong front-runner in national polls, the former New York City has fallen well behind the three candidates jockeying for a victory in Michigan, John McCain, Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee.

"I've faced odds that were at times seemingly impossible, situations where people had given up hope, but we didn't listen to the doubters, we didn't listen to the naysayers," Giuliani told several thousand worshippers at El Rey Jesus church in Miami.

"Fear not, be strong, and of good courage," he added, quoting the Bible. The church, with has a congregation of 10,000 people, was his first stop on a three-day bus tour through Florida.

After church Sunday, the candidate did remind crowds at some later stops about early voting, which starts Monday. His campaign has been putting an extra focus on voter outreach for the early balloting.

Giuliani's Florida bus tour - expected to cover nearly 700 miles by the end of the day Tuesday - comes on the heels of word last week that a dozen senior staffers are giving up their paychecks this month, which some have read as a sign that the one-time front-runner is struggling with a cash shortage.

Giuliani and his aides, however, have dismissed suggestions the campaign is running into money trouble.

"We're in good shape," he told reporters Sunday. "We really are. The reality is we have enough money to get through this." He said the people forgoing their pay "did that out of an excess of generosity but it really wasn't necessary."

He said that unlike some other candidates, notably Romney, he has not put any of his own money into his campaign.

"I never have," he said. "I believe that the way you run for office is you raise money and you've got to raise money among the people and you've got to have their support in order to run."

In an interview Sunday on Fox News, Giuliani was pressed about whether his campaign has been steadily retreating from early primary states like Michigan and South Carolina, where he once said he would compete and has now pulled back, Giuliani said the strategy has been to adjust.

"The reality is as these primaries played out, certain people were very strong in some, and you had to look for the opportunity where you had the best chance to demonstrate your strength," he said. "And it turned out that the analysis was that Florida was the best place for us to do it."

As Giuliani boarded a firetruck Sunday to ride in a Three Kings parade in Little Havana, some Miami-Dade County firefighters were protesting the decision by their union leaders to put him in a truck with the union name on the side.

Parade-goers along the two-mile route both cheered and booed the former mayor.