A Parting Shot and Saying 'Bye' to Rudy

Mary Katharine Ham
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Posted: Jan 30, 2008 11:10 AM
The NYT smacks Rudy on his way out. The story begins thusly:
Perhaps he was living an illusion all along.
Rudy's seeming improbability as a Republican candidate shields him somewhat from the harshest recriminations for his stunning fall from grace, but since the NYT is reminiscing:
In the beginning, few cracks were evident in the Giuliani campaign machine. He led the Republican field in polls conducted by The New York Times and CBS News throughout the summer, as his support peaked in August at 38 percent nationally in a four-way fight with Mr. McCain, Mr. Romney and Fred D. Thompson. That put him 20 points ahead of his next closest competitor, Mr. Thompson, who has since dropped out of the race.
He also had more cash-on-hand than Romney or McCain last fall.

So, what happened? The easy answer is that the Big-State Strategy was always a loser. I'm not sure that's entirely true. Due to some good fortune and the freakonomics of a freaky campaign season, the Big-State Strategy was more viable than it's ever been before. One big win for Huck, one for Romney, and two good wins for McCain going into Florida, where Rudy had spent all his time and money. The best-case scenario for Rudy would have been total chaos-- a win for Fred in South Carolina to throw things totally out-of-whack-- but he had a decent scenario on his hands. [# More #]

Everything seemed to go south for Rudy once details of his extra-marital relationship with Judith Nathan, and the public spending that supported it, got out. The story broke the day of the YouTube debate, so Rudy was spared an all-out grilling about it that night in front of a national audience. Instead, Anderson Cooper asked him one question about it and took his answer at face value, forgoing a follow-up to move on to another YouTube question.

The Judith story was not a fun one to deal with, to be sure, but the campaign had to know it would be hit with something of that nature, and it seemed not to have a response. The feeling I got was that they were gonna hope the story didn't sink in, and not bother mounting a vigorous defense, lest the word "mistress" make its way into any more headlines. For voters, it confirmed that they were taking a chance on Rudy, that there would likely be more such revelations in a general election, and that he didn't look real good at deflecting them.

After that, Rudy was out of the storyline until Florida. Some say he should have competed in New Hampshire, where he was wholly committed to direct mail efforts but not much else (blockquote corrected, below):
No candidate last summer sent out as many direct-mail appeals in New Hampshire as Mr. Giuliani. Last fall, the campaign also broadcast its first television commercials there, ultimately spending more than $3 million on advertisements, and dispatched Mr. Giuliani there for lots of retail campaigning in a state where voters tend to worry more about taxes and the military than conservative social issues. And he seemed at peace with this choice.
Had Rudy competed all-out in the more moderate New Hampshire primary when McCain was left for dead last summer, he and Romney might have ended up fighting over the state, having left the cash-poor McCain behind.

I always wondered why Rudy didn't speak up more often in those pre-Iowa and New Hampshire debates. He didn't have much to lose and he had enough of a sense of humor to take some serious whacks at opponents without coming off mean.

I also wondered why he didn't talk more about health care. He talked about free-market health care better than anyone on the debate stage, and the response in Frank Luntz's focus groups when he did was pretty phenomenal. Given that free-market health care is a perfect contrast to the Democrats' plans, I thought he should have made that more central to his campaign. As an added advantage, now that the economy is issue No. 1, a pocketbook issue like health care would have played very well.

Or, maybe the whole problem was that Rudy was running on "12 Commitments," none of which I can remember.