AUSTIN (AP) – Texas Gov. Rick Perry campaigned in Florida with Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani on Monday to give Giuliani a last-minute boost with conservatives in the pivotal primary state.
Perry joined the former New York mayor for an airport rally in Orlando, then they headed on to similar events in St. Petersburg, Fort Myers, Fort Lauderdale and Miami in advance of Tuesday's primary.
Giuliani has yet to win a primary and has geared his campaign strategy around a victory in Florida. Recent polls show Giuliani trailing John McCain and Mitt Romney in the state.
Giuliani's campaign wanted to have Perry in Florida last week, but Perry wasn't available until Monday, said Perry spokesman Robert Black.
Perry was in Washington, D.C., over the weekend, so "he decided just to take off and go down there," Black said. He'll return to Washington on Tuesday for business with the Republican Governors Association, which he chairs.
Perry campaigned for Giuliani in Iowa and South Carolina, where he trailed his competitors.
"We've been honored to have the support of the governor throughout the campaign," said Giuliani spokesman Elliott Bundy. "He's known throughout the country as a conservative governor."
Other elected officials and actor Jon Voight have traveled with the former mayor.
"Giuliani needs to connect with conservative voters in Florida, and having a pro-life, tax-cutting governor on your side can only help," said Texas political consultant Ray Sullivan, who once worked for Perry and remains close to the governor.
Perry endorsed Guiliani in October. He's the only sitting governor to publicly support him.
That endorsement by Perry angered some of the governor's social conservative backers in Texas because of Giuliani's stances in favor of abortion rights, gay rights and embryonic stem cell research. But Perry praised Giuliani's record of fighting terrorism and holding the line on taxes. He said Giuliani was the Republican with the best chance of getting elected in November.
He said he believed that Giuliani, if elected, would nominate conservative U.S. Supreme Court justices.
Black said Perry isn't worried about any fallout for himself should Giuliani lose in Florida or in the overall race.
"He makes decisions based on what he believes is the right thing to do, and this is an example of that," Black said.
The governor will support whoever is the eventual Republican nominee, he said.
"Right now his candidate is Rudy Giuliani and he's going to do what he can to see that he's successful," Black said.
The Texas primary is March 4, after a number of large states hold primaries Feb. 5.
Despite Giuliani's more liberal views on some issues, Perry and the former mayor liked each other and formed a friendship in the months leading up to the presidential race. Giuliani's name tops a Houston law firm that represents oil and energy companies, Bracewell & Giuliani.
Giuliani helped Perry with a radio ad in the governor's successful re-election bid last year. The two share some of the same campaign donors and consultants.
Perry's help will likely be sought after before the November general election no matter who wins the GOP nomination, Sullivan said, since there are fewer conservative Republican governors than there were a few years ago.
Kelley Shannon has covered Texas politics and government based in Austin since 2000.