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Rudy's last Iowa stand

From NBC/NJ's Matthew E. Berger
CLIVE, Iowa -- The closing night of any show always draws an interesting crowd, so as Giuliani makes his last lap around Iowa today, he is being trailed by a group of media heavyweights. Many of the reporters that are with him today acknowledge that they haven't seen Giuliani on the campaign trail for months, if at all, and want to catch a glimpse of him in person before he is gone for good. While the reporters have been camped out in Iowa, Giuliani has been elsewhere, and they say it has contributed to him being left out, by and large, from the national dialogue in recent weeks, his medical scare notwithstanding.

Giuliani started his day with a rally in his cramped Iowa headquarters here. He stayed for just 20 minutes, speaking to staffers and volunteers. He seemed more comfortable utilizing the new campaign theme of "Tested. Ready. Now." than he was when it was first unveiled.

He was asked about recent comments from McCain that Giuliani's experience on 9/11 was better described as crisis management than national security. "I would say that my experience goes back well before Sept. 11," he said, rattling off his time as a federal prosecutor and Justice Department official. "I have a tremendous amount of experience dealing with the safety and responsibility for other people."

People are beginning to question Giuliani's work ethic and whether he is willing to put in the amount of hours necessary to win votes, not just in Iowa, but nationwide. Giuliani is at his best when he is with those who like and respect him, where he can speak to a captive audience, sign copies of his book and accept kudos for his work on 9/11. He is less comfortable convincing undecided voters to choose him, and seems to be holding fewer town hall meetings and similar events than his colleagues.

And it's not just in Iowa. During his three-day swing in Florida, he held only one town hall meeting.

The former conventional wisdom was that Giuliani was not holding many public events so that he could concentrate on fund-raising, especially since his main challenger is one with unlimited resources. But now more are questioning whether he is just not a fan of events that put him in direct contact with undecided voters.

At the same time, we are seeing uncharacteristic moves from the campaign, which could be described as a charm offensive. Giuliani, who has been elusive to most cable news programs in recent months, made numerous appearances in the last few days, using the Bhutto assassination to talk national security. And campaign staffers, who have had an adversarial relationship with reporters in the past, have been more friendly and accommodating than they have ever been before.

Giuliani will devote much of next week in New Hampshire, arriving tomorrow. He will take New Year's Eve and New Year's Day off, and will spend part of caucus night in Florida before returning to the Granite State.