Friday, January 18, 2008

Rudy Skeptic

Count me as a Rudy skeptic. His decision to skip the early primaries has sunk him. Over the summer Giuliani turned out to be a surprisingly strong campaigner. New York City is maybe the ultimate venue for retail politics, a patchwork of ethnic and class enclaves where politicians have to walk down the sidewalk shaking hands and looking people in the eyes, and Giuliani has mastered this art. What an error, then, to deliberately keep him off of the battlefield in the first rounds. I think that his campaign anticipated that he would look vulnerable in these weeks between New Hampshire and Florida. I doubt that they anticipated that John McCain would rise Lazarus-like to become the front-runner once again. McCain kills Giuliani. Giuliani wanted to run Bush-Cheney 2004, "Vote for me or the terrorists will kill you." But McCain has better national security and foreign policy credentials than Giuliani. And even if one assumes that on security McCain and Giuliani are a tossup, McCain is more conservative on social issues than Giuliani: he's always been against abortion, he's a western rancher's senator who opposes environmental regulations, he's been a major backer of the red-meat flag-burning amendment, etc. So if the choice comes down to those two, conservative Republicans will vote for McCain, for once voting for the more electable candidate for the general election. The next three rounds are South Carolina, Nevada, and Florida. If McCain wins any two out of those three, he locks up the nomination. This wonderful four-way split goes poof and we're back to reality. Meanwhile Romney is in serious trouble. His argument is that he's racking up the most delegates, but he should be more worried about his popularity. The national polls tell the story. Strange scenario de jour: McCain kills off Giuliani, the electorate wakes up to the fact that Huckabee is unelectable, but the inexplicable aversion to McCain doesn't evaporate, and Republican primary voters turn to: Thompson after all. And then they lose the election.

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