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Monday, November 12, 2007
posted by Kyle Hampton | 8:44 PM | permalink
The Plank's Ben Wasserstein assesses Giuliani's campaign strategy and arguments of inevitability:
I don't buy the arguments in the Giuliani campaign's recent conference call outlining their candidate's inevitable path to the Republican nomination--and not for the reasons suggested by the Romney campaign. On The Stump, Noam Scheiber argues that if Romney comes out ahead in the early primary states, Mitt could start picking up states in the Midwest and West, even Florida, Rudy's supposed "firewall." But another looming problem, seemingly unaddressed in campaign’s conference call, is the South. If Fred Thompson continues his swan dive, while Rudy keeps playing the supposed-frontrunner-who-gets-beaten, isn’t it possible that a high-spending family man like Romney could make a play in states like Mississippi and Virginia? Someone’s got to get those voters who are fleeing from Fred--why not the guy with the momentum? And with the RNC granting additional delegates to states that have voted red, Dixie has disproportionate clout. Maybe Giuliani can get away with basically ignoring Iowa and conceding first place in New Hampshire, but if Romney makes a strong showing in the South, he won’t get very far at all.

(One more note: On the call, Rudy’s aides reportedly said that they feel good about their current second-place position in New Hampshire. What if McCain keeps climbing?)

I think Wasserstein has the right idea. Giuliani's projections assume a static situation once voting begins. As Justin's historical example of Mo Udall shows, there is little predictability once you get past the early states. Votes will be fluid up until the day to vote based on voter assessment of the race at that time. That's one of the reasons why winning early and often is so important: voters' conceptions of the candidates and the dynamics of the race can change quickly (due in part to free media reports of how the voting went). The candidates gain a reputation and sense of viability based on performance. The race is, thus, more fluid than what can be gained from looking at polling in states that don't vote until February.

In a sense, the Giuliani campaign is trying to (if you'll permit a sports metaphor) flip a switch for the playoffs. He figures that the early states don't really matter and that he can somehow shift gears at a later date. The logic for that kind of argument, especially in electoral politics, is flawed to say the least.

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