Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani has a dangerous strategy for gaining the the Republican presidential nomination. Given the distance between his own positions and those of his party’s mainstream voters, he may have had no choice, but his campaign is still taking a huge risk.
Mayor Giuliani’s game plan has been to all but sit out of the early primaries and caucuses in Iowa, New Hampshire, Michigan and South Carolina. His hope was to have the other candidates emerge as damaged goods with besmirched reputations, reduced funds and no momentum. Having barely campaigned in those states his own status would be relatively untarnished, leaving him in great shape to claim the front-runner role after a big win in Florida on January 29th, just one week before Super Duper Tuesday when 19 states hold Republican choose delegates. Consequently, he’s spent a tremendous amount of time and money in the Sunshine state.
One aspect of the strategy is working — so far. Former Governor Mike Huckabee took Iowa and Senator John McCain won in New Hampshire. The split decisions means there’s no real front-runner among Republicans.
A win in Michigan by former Governor Romney would further complicate things. And that’s a real possibility. A recent Rasmussen Reports telephone survey shows a statistical tie with Governor Romney pulling 26 percent of the vote and Senator McCain with 25 percent. Other polls show the race equally as tight. Then, if Governor Huckabee captures South Carolina on January 19th, a real possibility, the Republican nomination would be totally up-for-grabs as the campaigns move into Florida.
Then again, if Senator McCain wins in Michigan and follows that up with a victory in South Carolina, the Mayor would will be hard pressed to derail the Senator’s juggernaut.
There’s another problem with the Giuliani strategy, however. The idea is that the Mayor would be in a commanding position come primary time. Yet, despite the time and money he’s lavished on the state, Mayor Giuliani is not exuding much strength.
His senior staff have “volunteered” to give up their salaries for awhile. The Mayor’s campaign denies it, but this is usually a sign a campaign is in trouble financially. And while relying on polls as a predictor of future election results is an increasingly risky idea after New Hampshire, it is interesting to note that another recent Rasmussen Reports telephone survey shows a four way tie in Florida. Senator McCain with 19 percent, Mayor Giuliani at 19 percent, Governor Romney at 18 percent and former-Governor Mike Huckabee with 17 percent — all within the margin of error. Even former-Senator Fred Thompson is in striking distance of taking Florida with 11 percent.
A big risk inherent in the Mayor’s strategy is, by ignoring the early contests, he has been all but ignored by the media nearly a month. That’s a lifetime in an election. Worse, the most consistent publicity Mayor Giuliani has received during this time is a steady stream of ridicule from comics and pundits who perceive him as a one-note candidate. As former-Democratic presidential candidate Senator Joseph Biden described it, Mayor Giuliani’s stump speech is “A noun. A verb. And 9/11.” Being the butt of jokes is not the way to stand tall facing a win-or-go-home election.
And for Mayor Giuliani, winning in Florida is the only option. It was his choice to put his campaign’s fate in the hands of Florida voters. The consequences might be a faster return to the lecture circuit than he anticipated.