"It looks as if we just beat those campaigns in Iowa two months earlier than we had planned on beating them."
--Romney for President spokesman Kevin Madden on the decision of Rudy Giuliani and John McCain to “skip” the Ames, Iowa straw poll.
The first Republican presidential debate was at the Reagan Library on May 3, 2007. The third was on June 5, 2007 in New Hampshire. In the space of one month and a day, former Massachusetts Governor went from fundraising frontrunner to a dead heat with the other two and a half candidates for the GOP nomination: Rudy Giuliani, John McCain and Fred Thompson.
John McCain opened the year as the MSM-anointed front-runner for the Republican nomination and has faded so quickly as to defy comparison with past political collapses. To be sure other early favorites –including Mitt Romney’s dad—have faded, but never more than six months before the first vote in the first primary is cast. Senator McCain’s long record of sharp sticks in Republican eyes –McCain-Feingold, the Gang of 14, two immigration bills co-authored with Ted Kennedy (and that’s just part of his record since George W. Bush took office)—has not only crippled his campaign, it has done so in record time. Staff lay offs and plummeting cash receipts make it likely that Senator McCain won’t even compete in Iowa’s caucuses, much less the huge set of early primaries. Announcing that he wasn’t going to compete in Ames was a warm-up. Look for an early and hopefully graceful exit from the campaign to allow the senator to concentrate on rallying support for the war.
Rudy was a solid front-runner as the second quarter opened, on top of most polls and a respectable second in dollars raised behind Romney’s. Then came a tough debate in Simi Valley and increased scrutiny of the former mayor’s social policies, especially abortion. Rudy delivered a very strong performance in the New Hampshire debate –helped along by some lightning—but then he too all but declared the campaign in Iowa over with his announcement yesterday of the decision to “skip” the Ames straw poll. That he did so on the day after a good debate showing, thus stepping on his favorable story, hints at the lack of professionalism in campaign management that could be trouble down the line. Pulling out of Ames does more than hint. It declares that Rudy can’t close the sale with traditional social conservatives --yet.
Fred Thompson is the bear in the woods, but when the bear came out of the woods in Newport Beach, California on May 4, he wasn’t very scary. Wrote Robert Novak the following Monday: