The Giuliani Bubble Could Pop By January, And Ron Paul May Be Holding The Needleby Doug Mataconis
The oft-repeated mantra of Rudy Giuliani’s Presidential campaign is “electablity” — the idea that, of all the Republican Presidential candidates, he’s the only one capable of beating the presumptive Democratic nominee in November 2008.
But the early primary calendar poses a challenge to Giuliani that could put a big hole in the electability argument and go a long way toward erasing the lead that he has in the national polls.
First, there’s Iowa, where Giuliani is a distant fourth behind Romney, Thompson, and Huckabee.
Then, there’s New Hampshire, where he trails Mitt Romney by at least 6 percent and the possibility of a surprise performance by someone like Ron Paul could turn the primary into one of those tales of the unexpected.
Finally, there’s South Carolina where both Thompson and Romney have made significant inroads on what was once a Giuliani lead.
Poor performances in all three of these early primaries could by a serious problem for a campaign that would like for the rest of the GOP to think of as the inevitable winner.
Which is why, I’m betting Giuliani is spending a lot of time lately in New Hampshire:
MANCHESTER, N.H. — Rudy Giuliani, whose presidential campaign strategy originally downplayed New Hampshire, is now making a major bid to win the Granite State primary.
The new push includes spending four days in the state this week, the culmination of an effort which had him more in New Hampshire in October than in any other traditional early state.
The shift in strategy is motivated by both opportunity and fear
As well as no small degree of risk:
It increasingly looks likely that the GOP contest, like the Democratic one, may be virtually over by the trumpeted arrival of “Tsunami Tuesday” on Feb. 5.
That day, when 20 states will hold primaries or caucuses, had been the foundation of Giuliani’s strategy.
In a precedent-shattering playbook, Giuliani’s team has been gambling he could lose in the early states but score big in California, New York, New Jersey, Illinois and other states in a de facto national primary.
The risk: He’d be 0-3 after Iowa, New Hampshire and Michigan, meaning that Mitt Romney, his chief Republican rival, might have the momentum, the magazine covers and the frenzied media coverage, with the bonanza of volunteers and money that can follow.
So, it looks like the Giuliani camp may be writing off Iowa (a wise choice given both his standing in the polls and the relative unimportance of Iowa historically to who wins the nomination) and building a firewall in New Hampshire.
Ironically, while they concentrate on Romney and McCain, they may be forgetting the lesson of New Hampshire — which that it’s often the maverick candidate that ends up stealing the show. The maverick doesn’t need to win outright, though that has happened, just do better than expected.
The names should be familiar — Ronald Reagan (1980), Gary Hart (1984), Paul Tsongas (1992), Pat Buchanan (1992 and 1996), John McCain (2000). The maverick this year, of course, is Ron Paul and he’s making a move of his own in the Granite State. Should he do well enough to wreck Giuliani’s firewall strategy, it could have devastating consequences for the rest of Giuliani’s campaign.
Couldn’t happen to a more well-deserving apparatchik.