Goodbye for Rudy? What Went Wrong ...

Posted: Jan 29, 2008 8:50 PM

Much has been written and spoken about Rudy's flawed strategy of putting all his eggs in the Florida basket.  So why did he do it? 

Some people argue turning exclusively to Florida was an act of desperation.

... Rubbish. 

Rudy could have campaigned hard -- and done reasonably well -- in states like New Hampshire and Michigan.  Granted, he may not have won either state, but he would have been relevant and respectable.  The trick would have been to campaign hard in those states in order to keep his name and face in front of the public eye -- while simultaneously letting it be known that he was planning on winning in Florida and on Super Tuesday.  Granted, it would have taken some finesse to pull off -- but it could have been done.

But Rudy's team was afraid that if he tried hard but lost, he would shatter the facade of his own inevitability.  So he sought to avoid losing by not fully competing, like those poor souls who "know neither victory nor defeat."  In this regard, he was cursed by his early front-runner status.  He conducted his campaign very much like a football team who has a big lead, starts to play conservative, and ends up losing. 

After New Hampshire, Giuliani went straight to Florida and stayed there.   Interestingly, the more he campaigned in Florida -- and the more the other candidates campaigned elsewhere -- the worse Giuliani did. 

I'm am convinced that Giuliani believed that if he came to Florida -- and campaigned hard there -- that he would win.  After all, you don't get to be Mayor of New York without having a bit of an ego, and you don't get to be a presidential a front-runner without being a "winner." But the problem with being a winner is that winners are used to having things go their way.  Rudy was used to being the best pol in New York, but now he's running a national campaign against other seasoned professionals, like McCain and Romney.  They don't roll over easy.

Some folks will say that this decline was actually because the more voters get to know Rudy, the less they like him.  It is without a doubt true that Rudy turned-off some voters.  He travels with an entourage and is ushered in and out of places by his advance men. 

On a personal note, while Rudy's campaign was kind enough to organize interviews between me and their top-notch Giuliani surrogates, Giuliani, himself, remained aloof.  Like many reporters and bloggers, I've been on the Straight Talk Express, and have attended some behind-the-scenes meetings with Mitt Romney, but very few bloggers ever got to talk to Rudy (although I did try to talk his campaign manager into organizing a blogger call with Hizzoner).

But the bottom line is that while Rudy was campaigning in Florida, other candidates were garnering press attention in the states that mattered at the moment.      And while Rudy unveiled the best tax plan of any candidate in the race, the press paid scant attention. 

It was also astonishing that Giuliani failed to come out swinging at the last Florida debate.  That one I'll never figure out.

It would be hard to find a historical precedent for a campaign that was in first place for so long -- and raised so much money -- yet failed to come in even third place in any primary or caucus, and ended with a single delegate.  It's almost unbelievable.