Giuliani's Gamble: 'We Need to Win in Florida'

Whatever you think about former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani — the candidate, the campaign, the controversies — his celebrity is powerful. Love him or hate him, he is a political superstar.

And as he clomps through campaign stop after campaign stop along the Interstate 4 corridor — the populous region from Tampa/St. Petersburg in the west, through Orlando, and to Daytona Beach in the east — he is besieged with cheers, gawkers, requests for photographs and autographs.

In an interview with ABC News, Giuliani said that he's adjusted to life in the spotlight.

"You know, that part's been going on for awhile, so you get used to it," he said.

Giuliani is in Florida this week, trying to eke out a victory in that state, in his high-stakes gamble to become the Republican presidential nominee.

Worried that his moderate social views would turn off conservatives in early primary states like Iowa and South Carolina, Giuliani rejected the traditional path to the presidency and is now betting it all on the Sunshine State. If he wins Tuesday, he will vault to the front of the pack. If he loses, it's tough to see much justification for his campaign to continue.

Watch the story tonight on "Nightline" at 11:35 ET

'We Need to Win in Florida'


The campaign strategy was a bold call, and if it works, Giuliani will be vaulted to the front of the pack going into Super Tuesday one week later. If it doesn't work, then he may spend the rest of the campaign waking up in the city that doesn't sleep.

After all, he has been in Florida for almost 60 days, he says.

Giuliani once led polls nationally and in Florida by double digits, but recently stories about his much-praised leadership on 9/11 were replaced by headlines about the corruption indictment of his former police Commissioner Bernie Kerik, a man he recommended to become head of homeland security, and questions about billing records for security details while he went out to visit his then-mistress, now third wife, Judith Giuliani.

In an interview with ABC News in November, Giuliani said he had "made a mistake" by not vetting his former police commissioner. In response to the questions about the billing records, Giuliani said in a Republican debate that he wasn't involved in how his security was billed when he was the mayor.

And while his competitors duked it out, fought over issues and won early primaries, Giuliani was often left out of the conversation. In Florida he's now in a four-man scrum with John McCain, Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee.

The risky campaign strategy might not seem unusual for a man known for taking chances.

"I think it was the strategy that works for us," Giuliani told ABC News. "Of course in the long run, you know the answer to this at the end, not when you're going through it."

Some of Giuliani's senior staff members have foregone salaries in January as the campaign has put all its money into winning Florida. When asked whether he has the resources to compete on Feb. 5, Giuliani said "winning Florida is very important and then we'll think about the rest of it once we win Florida. The reality is, we need to win in Florida and we're going to work really hard to get one."

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