Rudy Giuliani gets religion in Florida. It’s about all he has left:
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 mayor 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.
Latest ABC poll shows more cratering:
On the Republican side, McCain’s support peaks among moderates, at 40 percent, vs. 22 percent for Giuliani; McCain’s gained 26 points among moderates since December while Giuliani’s lost 15 points. Conservatives — who predominate in most GOP primaries — split more narrowly, 25 percent for McCain, 23 percent for Huckabee and 17 percent for Romney, with 16 percent for Giuliani. Similarly, McCain has 36 percent support among independents — up 19 points since December — with Huckabee at 27 percent. McCain’s gains among independents have come at the expense of Romney and Giuliani, both down 10 points in this group, to 8 and 11 percent, respectively.
McCain has also gained ground among mainline Republicans, with 25 percent support, up 12 points since December, now running slightly ahead of Giuliani at 19 percent. Giuliani has lost 10 points among Republicans since December. Perhaps surprisingly, McCain is running competitively among evangelical white Protestants, a core Republican group, with 25 percent support to Huckabee’s 31 percent; that’s a 13-point gain for McCain since December, while Huckabee’s been essentially flat. Romney gets just 8 percent support from evangelicals, Giuliani, 15 percent.
In another of Giuliani’s weaker groups, he’s supported by just 12 percent of Republicans and Republican leaners who oppose legal abortion — and they account for 53 percent of the party.