February 1, 2008

Giuliani's fall (updated)

I confess: I’m still trying to understand what happened with Rudy Giuliani’s campaign. So I’m writing this post as an attempt to clarify, first and foremost, things to myself.

The New York Times, as well as many other newspapers and commentators, are most likely right: when, by late December, Rudy Giuliani decided to formally abandon plans to run hard in and perhaps win New Hampshire or Michigan, he made a huge mistake. “With this decision—write Michael Powell and Michael Cooper—he consigned himself to the media shadows during weeks of intensive coverage.” Furthermore, “no one had won an election by essentially skipping the first four or five caucuses and primaries.”

Yet, according to another observer,

the myth that he spun about not really competing in the early states where he had fared so badly was just that, a fairy tale. He visited New Hampshire 56 times last year. In December he lavished television advertising there and saw nothing back from it.
He gambled everything on Florida, in other words, because he had no choice. When his rivals did show up, straight after the South Carolina contest, the old Rudy had already vanished.

Not very different from what Giuliani himself thinks about his own controversial move: if it is true that “the strategy of ‘focus on Florida,’ didn’t work,” he said, it is also true that “it was in fact the only strategy available to us.”

Asked about his mood, Giuliani said,

“You feel a sadness that it's over because you want to win. And more than that you want to believe that what you can do is exceptional or its unique, that you can provide the kind of leadership that isn’t available. So there is a sadness about that.”

However, when Rudy Giuliani dropped out of the presidential race and endorsed Senator John McCain Wednesday night, there was no space for pessimistic moods in his drop out speech:

A New York Republican named Teddy Roosevelt once said “aggressive fighting for the right is the noblest sport the world affords.”

Like most Americans, I love competition. I don't back down from a principled fight. But there must always be a larger purpose. Elections are about more than just a candidate. Elections are about fighting for a cause larger than ourselves. They are about identifying the great challenges of our time and proposing new solutions. Most of all, they are about handing our nation to the next generation better than it was handed to us.Although we were unsuccessful in our endeavor, the fight to strengthen America goes on.

Our nation's next President must understand and make a commitment to keep us on offense in the Terrorists' War on Us. He must understand that stimulating our economy requires cutting taxes, because you make better decisions with your money than Washington bureaucrats. He must be committed to ending illegal immigration and securing our borders. And he must use free-market principles to make health care more affordable for all Americans.

I believe John McCain is that man. He is the right leader to move us forward, unite our party and transform Washington. I hope that you will join me in supporting him to be the next President of the United States.

As I look forward to the road ahead, I am optimistic because I believe America's best days are still to come. Our country has a bright future, but we must work together to ensure that our shared prosperity creates new and better opportunities for us all.

Not a bad way, in my opinion, to leave the stage.

Ok, that’s all, I’m afraid. And I obviously don't think my attempt to clarify to myself what happened was successful. But perhaps reading the future is easier than reading the past … so, about Giuliani’s personal future, here is a plausibile hypothesis (in yesterday’s Kansas City Star):

He won't be president, but what about Homeland Security chief Rudy Giuliani or even Gov. Giuliani?
Despite the collapse of his White House bid, experts say Giuliani has not lost his political luster and could end up in a Republican Cabinet or even run for elective office again one day.

“You're as good as your last election, but you're not out until you're dead,” said Henry Stern of New York Civic, a good-government group, who served as Giuliani's parks commissioner. “I think Rudy is very much alive, whether people like it or not.”
“He drops out, endorses McCain, McCain becomes the president, Rudy could be a Cabinet appointee; he could be homeland security chief, he could be attorney general,” said Douglas Muzzio, a political science professor at Baruch College. “His electoral life is over, but not necessarily his political life.”


UPDATE February 2, 2008 — 12:05 am

When I wrote the above I hadn't yet read this Time Online article:

In part, it occurred because his initial apparent strength was thoroughly misleading. A year ago, John McCain was the early favourite for the Republican crown and many analysts wondered if Mr Giuliani would be prepared to set aside his extremely lucrative career on the speaking and advisory circuit to launch an improbable bid for the Oval Office. He did and benefited when Mr McCain, demonstrating customary courage and contempt for expediency, called for more troops to be sent to an unpopular war in Iraq and supported a reform of immigration law that had much merit but few friends in conservative circles. He paid the price then, but has reaped rewards later. Mr Giuliani, the only other well-known Republican at that stage, assumed his mantle. It was, though, an illusory status. It had yet to be tested where it counted, in the white heat of elections.
It is a further tribute to this compelling, extraordinary and quite wonderful caucus and primary season that when that moment came, ordinary Republicans took another glance at Mr Giuliani and decided that he was not the man to be their champion.