Prospects of a Rudy Giuliani win in Florida are not looking good as the largely dormant candidate finally tries to spark public interest while other Republican contenders build on already established momentum.
Giuliani, who finished in single digits in every contest so far, took a political gamble by basically skipping out in early voting states to pursue Florida and Super Tuesday states. The former New York City mayor has called the sunny state "crucial" and experts widely think a loss would badly damaged or even cut short his campaign.
New polls out Thursday show Giuliani competing for third with financially exhausted Mike Huckabee, who is barely campaigning in the state, and behind John McCain and Mitt Romney who are in a head-to-head battle for first place.
"Rudy has fallen like the Dow Jones industrial average," Bill Adair, chief editor of the St. Petersburg Times, said on CNN's "American Morning." "What's happened is he gambled on Florida and put all his chips on Florida, and it's beginning to look like he gambled wrong."
Last fall, Giuliani had been the party's frontrunner and expected shoo-in for the Republican nomination. Talks of Giuliani representing the Republican Party sparked outrage among conservatives who threatened to abandon the party if the pro-abortion and pro-gay rights former mayor was selected.
Fear of a Giuliani-led Republican party mobilized a small group of pro-family leaders – that included Dr. James Dobson of Focus on the Family and Tony Perkins of Family Research Council – to hold a closed door meeting about the idea of launching and endorsing a third party candidate.
But such threats have long disappeared with Giuliani sinking in national polls and more conservative candidates rising to take his place.
"What he (Giuliani) miscalculated on is McCain and Romney and Huckabee all come with some momentum into Florida because they won other states, and Rudy doesn't have momentum," Adair commented.
Current frontrunner McCain has won New Hampshire and South Carolina; Romney took first place in Wyoming, Nevada and Michigan; and Huckabee finished top in Iowa.
Yet despite dire forecasts, Giuliani remains optimistic in interviews about his chances in Florida.
"We are going to win in Florida, then we will be talking about exactly who made the right decisions," he said, according to CNN.
"This is truly a marathon, and you've got to remain focused on it that way and not get too upset about the things that go wrong or too excited about the things that go right."
Besides a viability image problem, Giuliani may also face opposition from Florida Christians, who are being urged by some pastors to vote Biblical values in the upcoming election – a push that can work against him.
Pastor Bryan Longworth of Covenant Tabernacle World Outreach Center in Port St. Lucie, Fla., will host a viewing of the Values Voter 2008 Presidential Debate Friday night at his church and encourage voters to pick the candidate that matches their biblical values.
Longworth complained that Christian apathy has allowed the "nation to slip into moral depravity" on such issues as abortion, same-sex "marriage," and the removal of the Ten Commandments. He called on the "church to stop playing church, and start being the church," according to a statement.
Florida will head to the polls Jan. 29, ahead of Super Tuesday when more than 20 states vote on Feb. 5.