MIAMI — Less than a week before Florida's Republican primary, a money crunch is settling in, prompting Rudy Giuliani and John McCain to park their Florida bus tours Tuesday and zip to New York City for quick cash infusions.
Mitt Romney didn't have to; the millionaire businessman stayed in Florida and put up yet another television ad, pitching his business skills as an antidote to a slumping economy.
"There will be opportunity for our economic sector to come back, but it is going to require action on the part of leadership in Washington to convince the world that America will come back strong," Romney said in Boca Raton. He was making his pitch to a group of Jewish Republicans, one of the many constituencies the GOP hopefuls are racing to woo as they crisscross the state.
Polls show a near dead heat among McCain, Giuliani and Romney.
McCain, who courted military veterans across Florida's conservative Panhandle, was to return late Tuesday for an economic roundtable in Orlando on Wednesday.
Giuliani, who reiterated his support for a national catastrophe fund in Palm Beach, will be back Wednesday for a rally near Fort Myers.
"It's an important thing for Florida, but I do think it's an important thing for the rest of the country...." Giuliani said of the federal backstop. "And it is an area in which I am the strongest supporter of it of the candidates that are running on the Republican side."
McCain's fundraising trip to Giuliani's backyard gave the Arizonan a chance to tweak the former New York City mayor. McCain announced that he's won the support of Giuliani's nemesis, former New York Sen. Alfonse D'Amato. And signaling that he's setting his sights beyond Jan. 29, McCain announced campaign teams in Connecticut and New Jersey, which vote on Feb. 5.
"These are difficult and dangerous times," McCain said at rallies in Pensacola and Fort Walton Beach. He was accompanied on stage by Col. Bud Day, who languished in a POW camp with him during the Vietnam War. "I've spent my life preparing to lead this nation."
McCain's campaign said the New York fundraiser has long been on the schedule and that fundraising is "going exceptionally well."
"Folks are calling me, asking, `How do I give? Where do I give?' '' said Brian Ballard, a Tallahassee lobbyist and major McCain fundraiser. Ballard said he expected McCain's campaign — which is holding at least five Florida fundraisers before Tuesday's vote — to raise as much money in Florida this week as it did in Florida all of last year.
Buoyed by McCain's victories in New Hampshire and South Carolina, Ballard said the campaign also is looking to poach donors from other campaigns, including contributors to Fred Thompson, who dropped out Tuesday.
"Our guys are emboldened," Ballard said. "After spending six to seven months being laughed at, snickered at, we're not above calling a Romney or a Giuliani money person and saying, `Hey, maybe it's time to hedge your bets a little bit.'
"And they're not above hedging their bets a little bit," he said.
Romney, who has contributed millions to his own campaign, continued chugging across the state aboard his "Mitt Mobile."
Asked if his considerable personal wealth is giving him the edge in Florida — where a week of TV ads can cost $1 million — Romney disputed that dollars are an issue.
"I don't know that that's the key feature in Florida," he said, noting that he has ``sufficient funds to keep the campaign going'' and adding that "surely everyone has sufficient funds to keep their campaigns going for another week."
Fort Lauderdale attorney Ed Pozzuoli, who is chairing Giuliani's campaign in southeast Florida, said the campaign "hoarded resources back in October'' so it now has the money to spend.
"The campaign strategy for a long time has been that Florida was the key state," he said.
Pozzuoli dismissed suggestions that Romney's money gives him an advantage.
"Each of the candidates has strengths and weaknesses, and Mitt Romney has that as a strength," he said. "It is what it is. In Florida, the Giuliani campaign will be spending what it needs to spend."
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who boasts a grassroots campaign but few dollars, has been largely unprepared to compete in Florida, lacking, as he noted, a single staffer or a field operation. He spent Tuesday in Georgia, courting conservatives at a rally for a state constitutional amendment to ban abortion.
He's scheduled to attend a Panhandle fundraiser Wednesday, but appears to be targeting states with larger bases of evangelical voters. His campaign says it won't be able to compete in the ad wars in Florida — all his rivals are running television ads — and may concentrate its media buys on radio, particularly Christian radio.
(Clark, who reports for The Miami Herald, anchored the story from Washington. Other Herald reporters who contributed from Florida: Marc Caputo with Mike Huckabee, Oscar Corral with Rudy Giuliani, Tere Figueras Negrete with Mitt Romney and Casey Woods with John McCain.)