WASHINGTON (CNN) - It’s a measure of the drama surrounding the current campaign that the State of the Union isn’t the biggest political headline of the morning: It’s primary day, and according to Rudy Giuliani, there’s only one ticket out of Florida.
The grabber, of course: this assessment comes from a candidate who hasn’t held first place in the GOP standings here since voting began.
"This is a place where we have to test ourselves," Giuliani told reporters yesterday. "The winner of Florida will win the nomination; we're going to win Florida."
So would a loss here end his White House run? "When it’s Wednesday morning, we'll make a decision," he said.
The high-stakes Republican contest is grabbing most of the attention - but early voting in Florida’s no-stakes Democratic contest is still on a pace to break turnout records. And while Barack Obama was sharing a Washington stage with three new Kennedy family backers, Hillary Clinton’s campaign revealed a pair of high-profile Florida endorsements: U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and former attorney general Janet Reno.
The Florida endorsements, tonight’s Miami rally, the last-minute candidate calls for a reprieve from national party penalties on the state – denials aside, squint hard and it’s not hard to see the outlines of a non-campaign campaign. The grassroots faithful of “Florida for Hillary” see it too – they’re still busy recruiting convention delegates through noon today (“Signing up to run is simple but you have to act fast,” says their Web site. What you will find in the announcement: exclamation points! What you won’t: any hint that the state’s delegates won’t exactly find a warm welcome in Denver – or party-reserved hotel rooms, or space on the convention floor.)
As the polls get ready to open across Florida, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are already focused on contests far beyond the state.
Yesterday, the Clinton campaign announced the launch of their Super Tuesday Rapid Responders, their official 22-state media surrogate network. And the Obama team spent the day laying out a post-February 5 plan of their own: a single-minded focus on padding the delegate count. They’re counting on a full-court superdelegate press from John Kerry and Ted Kennedy, and a grassroots push to draw on isolated areas of support - chipping away at Clinton’s pledged delegate haul in states that are supposed to act as her firewall.
Still, they admit they’re stronger in some areas than others – conceding to CNN yesterday that Latinos in general, and New York in particular, are currently in Clinton’s corner. They’re not wrong: the senator has dominated polls of Democratic primary voters in her home state, and can credit Latino voters with her Nevada win.
Still, with a 22-state playing field to cover, it doesn’t exactly send a message of confidence when her campaign lays out resources for a Spanish-language radio buy in the Big Apple. Those spots will reportedly begin running today.
- CNN Associate Political Editor Rebecca Sinderbrand