Salena Zito

Six months ago, Giuliani’s strategy was the fad and, in all fairness, it was the only shot he could take based on his lack of appeal to early-primary activists. He prepared the ground by creating early-loss assumptions, making it easy to say, “Hey, everybody knew this from Day One.”

“It may not work,” says Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, “but it gives him a shot for a comeback starting in Florida on Jan. 29.

“While things aren’t looking too bright for Rudy just now, we’ve already seen that this primary season is a roller-coaster.”

Aside from the lack of positive ink and early-primary momentum, Giuliani also runs the risk of a death by a thousand cuts from lethal opposition research -- distracting him from making his case in later primary states.

Each campaign is trying to write the next political-history lesson, to establish conventional wisdom before it happens. Truth is, no one knows if Giuliani’s gamble will work.

The key remains Florida -- a state where a new Rasmussen Reports poll shows Giuliani's once solid lead has sunk to third behind Huckabee and Romney. Lose there, and it’s over for “America’s Mayor.”

Salena Zito

Salena Zito is a political analyst, reporter and columnist.