Two new InsiderAdvantage polls, one in Georgia and another soon to be released in another major Southern state, show former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani leading the pack of potential Republican presidential candidates. No real surprise there, as Giuliani leads in national polls, too.
But here is his big problem: While GOP voters say they like Rudy, he doesn't lead by a poll margin significant enough to be safely ahead. And among potential candidates, Giuliani enjoys perhaps the highest name recognition. In other words, how much higher can he go?
Equally vexing for the Giuliani camp is that he lacks experience, as well as foot soldiers among Republican activists. Some may recall the ruckus earlier this year over the alleged theft of Giuliani's campaign blueprints. Having read excerpts from what was purported to be this plan, I can tell you I don't think anything of value was lost. It read like a plan for a campaign for class president.
In state after state, top political consultants, elected officials and activists are signing up with either former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney -- viewed as the GOP's Old Guard candidate -- or, to a lesser extent, with Arizona Senator John McCain, the "maverick" candidate.
If the war is about electability, Giuliani seems outflanked. Romney somehow has morphed from a fairly liberal social-agenda politician into a seemingly acceptable pro-lifer for the GOP's more conservative crowd. McCain has been able to leverage the constant attention he gets from being in the Senate to successfully style himself as representative of maverick or populist positions, to Giuliani's detriment.
As for Giuliani's bright and innovative style, waiting in the wings is Newt Gingrich whose brilliance is obvious -- just ask him!
What about Rudy's star power? It could be blocked, as well, if former Tennessee Senator Fred "Star of the Silver and Small Screens" Thompson enters the race. He polled surprisingly well in several of our surveys, especially considering that his name as a potential candidate arose just a few weeks ago.
If GOP leaders are unable to keep Thompson out of the race by offering him the attorney general's job, should current AG Alberto Gonzales leave due to scandal, Thompson could be a powerful force in the White House sweepstakes.
So what's a man like Rudy Giuliani to do? Like Democrat Howard Dean four years ago, Giuliani leads in virtually every poll for his party's nomination for president. How to avoid Dean's crash-and-burn fate?
Simple: Make the race all about competence and terror. Remember, it was cleaning up bureaucratic, crime-ridden New York City that brought Giuliani to the forefront of America's political scene prior to 9/11.
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