From NBC/NJ's Matthew E. Berger
Tim Russert said it first, but the Giuliani campaign seems to have adopted it as their mantra, "Florida, Florida, Florida."
The Giuliani campaign released its latest "strategy memo" to the press Monday to reemphasize a late state strategy that is increasingly under scrutiny from the mainstream media. The memo continues the usual Giuliani campaign refrain that few delegates will actually be awarded in the next couple of weeks and that the states Giuliani has focused on -- Florida, Illinois, Missouri, New York, California, Georgia and New Jersey -- will propel him to the nomination.
"Putting a high priority on spending our time and money in a proportional basis in Florida and the large delegate states voting on February 5th is clearly the right thing to do," Giuliani Strategy Director Brent Seaborn writes.
The campaign has at times suffered from being outside the main dialogue by not exchanging barbs with Romney and Huckabee and campaigning in other states. Now, by leaving Iowa, Giuliani is entering into a long media blackout, as well as two days of no public events. The memo serves to validate the "slow and steady" mentality the Giuliani campaign has adopted and to try and draw the attention of reporters camped out in Des Moines.
Obviously, the Giuliani campaign is trying to downplay the significance of Iowa and New Hampshire, even as Giuliani will spend the first week of the new year in the Granite State. They believe that the contest will essentially start anew on Jan. 29, and that a Giuliani victory in Florida will make him look like the frontrunner.
Seaborn acknowledges that Giuliani could finish outside the top three in Iowa, perhaps as low as sixth place. He suggests polls in the next few weeks will be contradictory and that only the numbers in Florida, which he says have been stable all year, suggest the future.
"As in all races, expect to see signs of tightening in Florida as Election Day approaches, but also expect us to consolidate more support as candidates drop out of the race," he said. "We are very proud of our Florida organization, which, like all of our state organizations, is prepared for the long, hard fight to win."
But the memo downplays the free media that early state winners will receive, and the effect of voters picking a perceived winner in subsequent primaries. It ignores the perceived notion that Giuliani losses in the early states, even if they are not significant to the delegate count, will hurt Giuliani's reputation and boost other candidates, which will make Florida and the Feb. 5 contests harder for him to win.
The ultimate goal of the memo, one can assume, is to get anchors and reporters covering the Iowa caucuses to acknowledge the Giuliani approach and not laud the victor with front-runner status and to try and get as much attention from the press in the next week as possible, even as they are out of state.