MIAMI — With his plan for winning the Republican presidential nomination riding largely on a big Florida victory at the end of the month, Rudy Giuliani asked an evangelical congregation for prayers instead of votes Sunday and quoted scripture to evoke a message of hope and perseverance.
"I'm not coming here to ask for your vote," he said. "That's up to you and it's not the right place. But I am coming here to ask you for something very special and more important: I'm asking for your prayers."
While other Republican candidates are focused on Tuesday's Michigan primary, Giuliani is following a strategy of pushing for a Jan. 29 victory in Florida he hopes will propel him toward a dominant showing on Feb. 5, when more than 20 states hold primaries and caucuses, and then on to the nomination for the November election.
Once a strong front-runner in national polls, the former New York City has fallen well behind the three candidates jockeying for a victory in Michigan, John McCain, Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee.
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The former New York City mayor has made conservative Christian Republicans nervous with some of his more liberal views — including his support for abortion rights, tolerance for gays, and gun control.
"I've faced odds that were at times seemingly impossible, situations where people had given up hope, but we didn't listen to the doubters, we didn't listen to the naysayers," Giuliani told several thousand worshippers at El Rey Jesus church in Miami.
"Fear not, be strong, and of good courage," he added, quoting the Bible. The church, which has a congregation of 10,000 people, was his first stop on a three-day bus tour through Florida.
Giuliani's Florida bus tour — expected to cover nearly 700 miles by the end of the day Tuesday — comes on the heels of word last week that a dozen senior staffers are giving up their paychecks this month, which some have read as a sign that the one-time front-runner is struggling with a cash shortage.
Giuliani and his aides, however, have dismissed suggestions the campaign is running into money trouble.
"We're in good shape," he told reporters Sunday.
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