Is anyone else out there as completely astounded by Rudy Giuliani’s campaign as I am? Here is a man who had everything going for him last year- he had the name recognition, huge fundraising, led in all the national polls, led New Hampshire for a long time, was constantly praised by the media (especially Fox News, namely Hannity), was deemed the most electable, and was still riding the wave of September 11th.
Now some analysts and bloggers attribute Giuliani’s loss to American’s forgetting about 9-11 and others consider it bad luck of the draw in terms of which states were voting first. This is hogwash. If a candidate wants to be the nominee of their respective party, they should be expected to finish at least fairly strong in every state and can expect to do well with just a little hard work.
What happened with Giuliani’s campaign falls directly upon the shoulders of him and his staff. Period. There is no other excuse for his loss; it was just a really, really bad strategy.
What Giuliani did was make a calculated risk that failed. He figured that with as many candidates as there are, the early states would have multiple winners, thus preventing anyone from having any momentum going into Florida. Florida would then reward Rudy for his dedicated support in Florida and for sticking it to seemingly insignificant states like Iowa and New Hampshire.
In all actuality, his pre-Florida strategy could not have worked out any better. Three different candidates won the first three states and momentum was not behind any one candidate.
There are a couple of things that happened that Giuliani did not see coming. First he did not expect that under any circumstances he would finish behind Ron Paul in most states and rarely get above 5%. He figured (and so did I) that name recognition and reputation would at the least get him 10% of the vote everywhere. So not only did he lose those early states, he lost them in a big embarrasing way.
Second, he misjudged momentum. While he was correct that no one person had the big mo leading into Florida, he failed to recognize that momentum can be shared and that after 6 contests some people will be considered viable and others wouldn’t. This year momentum was with McCain and Romney and they sufficiently covered GOP ideology in such a way that it prevented any further rise for another candidate.
Third, he severly underestimated Huckabee. It was his campaign that propped up Huckabee in November and December in hopes to have Huck beat out Mitt. That worked to a tea. What he didn’t anticipate is that Huckabee’s rise would do more damage to him than to any other candidate. Not because they are ideologically similar or anything, but because there is only so much room for candidates, five viable candidates were just too much and Huckabee’s rise force voters to re-evaluate the race and determined that the only people really working for their vote were McCain, Romney, and Huckabee. And really, voters rarely will have room for more than three candidates that they will consider.
4. He also underestimated McCain. Like everyone else, Giuliani thought McCain was dead in the water, but thanks SOLELY to the media, McCain was resurrected. In this race there is not room for both McCain and Rudy, they are practically the same ideologically. McCain’s rise took Rudy’s support. Rudy also refused to attack McCain’s positions until the day before Florida, that is just not going to cut it. I recognize that they are friends and respect each other, but this is politics and it’s a dirty game. McCain would not have been afraid to through Rudy under the bus if he were the main opposition, Rudy should not have been afraid either.
Ultimately, Giuliani’s strategy was idiotic. Who on earth thought it was a good idea to ignore the first six states? While in theory, taking all realism out of it, his reasoning was sound, but voters just aren’t that smart. Voters are sheep and are swayed with the wind. All voters saw was McCain and Mitt winning a lot and Giuliani getting pummeled by Ron Paul. Only political junkies were aware that this was (supposedly) all part of Giuliani’s plan and he wasn’t really competing. The average voter had no idea, thus his plan was dead before it even started.
So what really makes this the worst strategy ever is that Rudy had it all, he had everything going for him. He may well still have lost the nomination, but not like this, not in shame after only one state. He didn’t even put up a respectable fight. He cowered in the corner like a scared puppy. He could have finished with a strong third in Iowa with just a little work, he could have won or finished a strong second in New Hampshire, Michigan and Nevada were great fits for him, he could have been much stronger heading into Florida, but he refused to fight and instead ran away. He was too afraid of a one on one with Mitt, which, as it turns out, he probably could have one now that we have seen how McCain, Huckabee, and the media loathe Mitt. Giuliani alone could have prevented the rise of Huckabee and McCain, the two things that completely destroyed his campaign. What a sad joke of a candidate he turned out to be. Whomever his campaign manager was should never be hired for another campaign again.