Republican Rudy Giuliani didn’t wait to hear how badly he fared in New Hampshire before pressing onward to what he hopes will be friendlier territory.
The former New York mayor quickly thanked his supporters Tuesday night then left for Florida, one of the delegate-rich states central to his risky strategy that put little stock in the traditional roles of Iowa and New Hampshire.
“This is just the beginning. Think of it as the kickoff in what’s going to be a very long and very tough game,” Giuliani told about 100 supporters in a hotel ballroom. “By the time it’s over with, by February 5th, it’s going to be clear that we’re the nominee of the party.”
Mike Huckabee won Iowa; Sen. John McCain of Arizona prevailed in New Hampshire. Giuliani was in a close race with Texas Rep. Ron Paul for fourth place in New Hampshire, but he insisted he was leaving the state with renewed vigor.
Though he all but ignored Iowa, Giuliani invested a fair amount in New Hampshire, with a cluster of visits in the fall and $2.5 million in advertising. At the same time, his underlying strategy has been to focus on later voting states, particularly delegate-rich states like California and Florida.
His support in New Hampshire peaked last spring, just as John McCain’s campaign was heading into a serious decline. But in later months McCain’s gain appeared to come at Giuliani’s expense.
Betting that the field will remain fractured heading into Florida’s Jan. 29 contest, the campaign hopes a win there will begin a streak that will carry him through some two dozens states that vote Feb. 5. But he also could become irrelevant if he is eclipsed by the attention paid to the winners of the earlier contests.
So focused was Giuliani on what comes next that he no sooner had thanked his supporters than he asked them to pack their bags.
“We’re going to leave in a few minutes for Florida to fight it out there, and I want you to come join us there and help us,” he said. “And help us in Connecticut. Help us in New York. Help us in New Jersey.”
He said the race remained wide open.
“There’s going to be a lot more ups and downs to it, and one thing we can handle is ups and downs. That’s what it means to handle a crisis,” said Giuliani, who has made his leadership in New York after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks a central theme of his campaign.
Giuliani left New Hampshire before learning of McCain’s win. He said he would call the winner later Tuesday.