by Mark Silva
ORLANDO --- Rudy Giuliani, who repeatedly had predicted that the winner of Florida's Republican primary would become the party's presidential nominee, conceded in a sparsely filled hotel ballroom here just now that he has lost the Florida primary.
With initial returns showing a close contest between John McCain and Mitt Romney, the former mayor of New York -- who has banked his campaign for president on a big-state strategy that was supposed to start here in Florida -- is trailing the frontrunners by a wide margin. And CNN has projected McCain as the winner.
Jon Voigt, the actor, joined Giuliani on stage, facing a couple of hundred people standing in the hall of the Portofino Bay Hotel, where the cash bar stands as tribute to the financial state of the Giuliani campaign after investing millions of dollars on Florida TV advertising.
“It’s not over until it’s over,’’ a woman called out
“The great philosophy of Yogi Berra,’’ Giuliani said.
“There must always be a larger purpose,’’ Giuliani told his audience here. “Elections are about a lot more than just candidates… elections are about fighting for a cause greater than ourselves… most of all, they are about handing the nation to the next generation better than it was handed to us.’’
Giuliani said he had spoken to Romney and he commended McCain, as well as Mike Huckabee – and Ron Paul – “who won all of the debates,’’ Giuliani added.
“I believe that our party will be stronger as a result of the competition we’re going through… Win or lose, we are not done.
“We need to reestablish very, very clearly the idea that the Republican Party, the party of Lincoln, the party of Reagan, the party of Bush,'' he said. "When we do it right, when we are on our game, when we are making our contribution… we are the party of freedom.’
“This is a big party,’’ said Giuliani. “I’m even in this party… This is a big party.
“The future of our nation is in good hands, because it’s in your hands,'' he told them. "You and I will keep fighting to build a better future.
“No pessimism, ever, ever ever, just optimism.’’
On Wednesday, Giuliani is expected to withdraw and endorse McCain.