Monday, December 24, 2007


Rudy's Shuffle Into Irrelevancy

Andrew Sullivan quotes Giuliani supporter Patrick Ruffini on the state of Rudy's campaign:
Pretty brutal:

I hate to say this, but I don't think Rudy wants it badly enough. He has a bit of a Fred Thompson problem about him. He hasn't said anything particularly distinctive or memorable the entire campaign. His lows haven't been very low, and his highs haven't been very high. There is no one big thing his campaign is about - first, there were twelve, then there was a laundry list of his accomplishments as a Mayor; then, there were a series of issue spots that failed to move the needle in New Hampshire.
Nothing memorable? 'Sanctuary mansion'? The most humanizing thing Rudy has done this whole campaign is catch the flu.
Not to say that the past is prologue, but this isn't the first time that Rudy's commitment to a campaign has been called into question: The same speculation was raised back in 2000 when he was running for the Senate against, yes, Hillary Rodham Clinton.


But take a step back, and there are some fundamental problems with how Rudy is positioning his campaign with this strategy.

First, it gives off the impression that he doesn’t want to win. That he’s looking for a TKO rather than a decisive knockout punch. That he won’t go mano-y-mano with any of the opponents who matter. And that he doesn’t care about retail politics (in fact, the IA and SC blowback alone has probably contaminated him in NH). Perceived electability is not just poll numbers in the general, but how someone conducts themselves in the primary. Do they fight, or do they try and win on a technicality? That’s a proxy for how they will perform against the Clinton machine, and voters pick up on those kinds of signals.

Second, it ignores the fluidity of the race. Rudy was never the frontrunner in any traditional sense. A fifteen point lead in the primary is not like a fifteen point lead in a general election. It can evaporate overnight. John Kerry went from 15 to 40 percent in the polls after winning Iowa. It was clear from the beginning that the situation was simply too fluid for Rudy to simply run out the clock.

Third (and I’ll concede this can be temporary until Florida & Feb. 5 is upon us) but Rudy has missed out on the publicity surrounding the Iowa and New Hampshire contests. The coverage of Romney vs. Huck in Iowa has created centrifugal motion around those two, with voters nationally aligning on both sides of the Iowa proxy war. The McCain surge in New Hampshire is not confined to one state, but creates a rallying effect around him nationally. Missing in all this is Rudy. Just as voters tuned in to the race in November and December, he was totally AWOL in the early state-centric coverage.

It may be that we need to revise our theory of the early states. Momentum isn’t just about winning the early states, but also about competing in them. By building a proof-of-concept first in Iowa or New Hampshire, you demonstrate strength before the concentrated national press corps, and if it’s for real, word will spread nationally long before Iowa.
As for the "humanizing thing" to which Andrew mentions in passing, well, that occurred back in 2000 too: After revealing that he was suffering from prostate cancer, Giuliani withdrew from the race.

UPDATE: The campaign shares its own misgivings.

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