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Politics

It's like being in NYC for Giuliani

New York transplants laud the ex-mayor in his presidential run.

By ADAM C. SMITH
Published February 23, 2007


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DELRAY BEACH - His campaign has yet to show much of a pulse in Florida, but no other Republican presidential candidate has the ties to the countless transplanted New Yorkers in the Sunshine State than Rudy Giuliani.

So it was fitting that his first public presidential campaign stop in Florida was at a South Florida bagel and pastrami joint called Lox Around the Clock.

The former New York mayor barely seemed to have left home as he was surrounded by Yankees ball caps and Bronx and Brooklyn accents.

"Mr. Mayor, we loved you in New York. We need you for the country!" a person shouted from the crowd.

"Congratulations, from a former Garment District worker for the great job you did cleaning up the district!" yelled another.

"It's a little like being in New York," Giuliani beamed, pressing the flesh before heading to a private fundraising reception.

Giuliani has spent a lot of time in Florida campaigning for the likes of Jeb Bush, Charlie Crist and Mel Martinez. But even leading in most polls and nearly 11 months before the Florida primary, he is well behind Arizona Sen. John McCain and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in organizing a Florida campaign.

As if to underscore that point, as Giuliani made his South Florida appearance Thursday, Romney announced a 77-person Florida finance team filled with such Republican heavy hitters as Dr. A.K. Desai of St. Petersburg and Gary Morse, the developer of The Villages in central Florida.

"We have put together an extremely strong finance team that will help build the resources we need to campaign in the Sunshine State and across the nation, and this is just the beginning," Romney said in a statement.

Among the Tampa Bay area Romney supporters on the finance team: Hoe Brown of Tampa, Don DeFosset of Tampa, Ann Duncan of Clearwater, James MacDougald of St. Petersburg, Stephen Mitchell of Tampa, Mel and Brent Sembler of St. Petersburg, former Pinellas state Rep. R.Z. "Sandy" Safley and Dr. R. Vijay of Tampa.

Giuliani acknowledged he's had to hasten his campaign operation more than he expected.

"This has kind of happened faster than a lot of people expected. ... But we start off in a very good position here. I feel very comfortable," he said.

The former mayor dismissed questions about whether he may be too moderate on some social issues for Republican primary voters.

"My objective is to convince people I'm the right person overall. ... People have to look at the whole package. They have to think who do they think can be a leader for the future, who do they think can make this country safe, who do they think can prevail and make this a peaceful world," he said.

Adam C. Smith can be reached at 727893-8241 or asmith@sptimes.com.

[Last modified February 23, 2007, 00:45:00]


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