Post-mortem of a Campaign
Rudy Giuliani dropped out of the Presidential race Wednesday. He picked up only two delegates, and finished in the top three in just one state. Both the slightly crazy Ron Paul and the woefully underfunded Mike Huckabee ended up with many times his number of delegates. The Giuliani campaign was a disaster.
How did this happen? As late as early December, he boasted a commanding lead in national polls. His lead in Florida was considered a near lock, and he easily boasted the largest number of supporters among Republican pundits. The influential Sean Hannity seemed to be in his corner. (He attended a Giuliani fundraiser in Cincinnati). He had ample funds, and turned in commanding performances in the debates. How could these advantages translate into so little?
In my mind, there are three main reasons. The first is the end of the “inevitable” Hillary Clinton. Although many seem to have forgotten this fact, it is important to remember that Rudy used the oddly widespread assumption that he was some kind of “Hillary slayer” as a cornerstone for his campaign.
Hillary’s inevitability came to an end the night she flubbed Tim Russert’s now famous question about the feasibility of giving drivers licenses to illegal immigrants. (Opinion on this may vary, but Obama’s resurgence seems to have at started at that time). Giuliani’s demeanor and personality were perfect for a confrontation with Hillary—both are smart, pushy New Yorkers who have a great deal self-confidence. But Rudy wouldn’t match up so well against Barack Obama. Much of Giuliani’s support came from people willing to overlook his deviations from conservatism, provided he could beat the “inevitable” Hillary Clinton. But if Hillary wasn’t the Democrat nominee…Rudy wasn’t so essential.
The second reason was the story printed in several news outlets regarding alleged financial irregularities concerning the bodyguards provided for his then girlfriend, Judith Nathan. The story was false—and was exposed as such fairly quickly.
However, Giuliani’s handling of the situation was atrocious. The story in itself wasn’t all that damaging. It was just that Giuliani disappeared from the news cycle after it broke. Leaving voters with an image of possible wrongdoing and the image of a martial scandal.
Not a very favorable combination, especially since Giuliani didn’t give voters anything else to think about for several weeks. Romney got in his “Mormon speech”, Huckabee started his startling rise in the polls, and McCain gathered strength for a comeback. Giuliani made no effort to get headlines of any kind. The last major story about him managed to make him look both dishonest and sordid. His descent in the polls started there.
In some parallel universe, Hillary maintained her “inevitability” aura, and the press never published that damaging story regarding Giuliani’s mistress. So in that America, would Giuliani win the Republican nomination? Almost certainly not. A social liberal cannot win in the GOP (at least at the Presidential level). It has not nominated a candidate who supported abortion since Gerald Ford. The Republican Party is (or was) a three-legged stool of economic, foreign policy, and social conservatives. Social conservatives may very well provide the largest number of voters, while simultaneously demanding the least from the party. They are willing to vote for Presidents who refuse to attend the annual March for Life (George Bush has not attended even once since being elected, and Ron Paul was the only candidate to make it this year). They will vote for candidates who downplay any mention of abortion on the campaign trial. They draw the line at a candidate who actually supports abortion.
In the end, the Giuliani candidacy was a bit sad. Rudy Giuliani was a great mayor of New York City, and inspiring heroic after 9-11. I wish that he could have left us with those images, and not let our last picture of him be his ill-fated Presidential campaign.