Giuliani Sitting Out Iowa?
Don't Bet on It
DES MOINES -- He's ducking this weekend's Republican straw poll in Ames, but in the hours after Sunday's GOP debate, Rudy Giuliani did not look like a candidate getting ready to duck the caucuses next January.
After arriving in Iowa less than an hour before the debate, and claiming he was operating on only a couple hours of sleep, Giuliani made seven appearances on Sunday afternoon, blasting the leading Democratic candidates and displaying his customary toughness about how to combat threats of terrorism against the United States.
Asked by a local reporter about how Saturday's straw poll will affect the Republican race, Giuliani said, "It will have whatever impact it has, but it's not going to stop us from competing in the caucuses. Given the fact that we haven't spent any money and we haven't spent as much time here by any means as the other candidates, I'm very encouraged by the position we're in."
Giuliani's path to the nomination hinges less on Iowa or New Hampshire than does Mitt Romney's. He has been much more focused on Florida, which holds its primary next Jan. 29, and big states like California, New York, New Jersey and Illinois, which have clustered with others to create a national primary on Feb. 5.
His decision not to compete in Saturday's straw poll, which he announced two months ago, was seen as evidence that he intended to make only a cursory effort in Iowa next year, putting all his hopes in a late-state strategy that risked giving his rivals the opportunity to build momentum with victories in Iowa and New Hampshire.
Now his strategy is coming more into focus. His stops in Iowa and today, and his promise to audiences who turned out to hear him this weekend to return frequently, suggest that his campaign team has every intention of trying to make this state competitive. The same appears even more the case for New Hampshire.
Of the two early states, New Hampshire should be the more hospitable. The Republican electorate there cares more about cutting taxes than stopping abortions, which should play more to Giuliani's political profile.
Until recently, however, New Hampshire looked problematic. Mitt Romney, from neighboring Massachusetts, has some home field advantage and John McCain won the state handily eight years ago. But McCain's weakened candidacy creates an unexpected opportunity for Giuliani and he appears anxious to take advantage of his rival's problems.
Fred Thompson, who is on the cusp of getting into the race, should not count on making New Hampshire his first stand. The state has rarely warmed to southern candidates (Jimmy Carter is an exception) and Thompson's trip there earlier this summer left many in the state underwhelmed.
Romney has an organizational advantage in both New Hampshire and Iowa. The latest Washington Post-ABC New poll shows he is doing well in Iowa in considerable part because people believe he has worked the state harder than any of the other candidates. He has spent heavily on television ads in Iowa and he and his family have swarmed the state for months.
But the Post-ABC News poll showed that when it comes to evaluating candidates, Iowa Republicans have opinions about Giuliani that are about as positive as those for Romney. One is strength of leadership. There Romney and Giuliani are roughly even. On who has the best chance of getting elected in 2008, Giuliani has the edge at this point.
When people were asked who is closest to you on issues, however, Romney came out ahead -- a reminder that Giuliani's social issues positions are well to the left of a majority of Iowa GOP caucusgoers.
Romney and Giuliani were offered the chance to go after one another in Sunday's debate with moderator George Stephanopoulos showed a clip of an interview Romney had given to Christian Broadcasting Network in March in which he questioned whether Giuliani's positions in favor of abortion rights, gay rights and gun control could ever win over GOP audiences.
Romney deflected the question. "I think Rudy Giuliani is a terrific American and a wonderful mayor," he said. "That was very early in the process. . . I think I have a better perspective on his views now -- not entirely, but a pretty good view on his positions. And I'd rather let him speak for him, his own positions, than me speak for them."
It's doubtful Romney's campaign will be as gentle five months from now.
For now, McCain's star has faded in Iowa, thanks largely to a backlash against his support for comprehensive immigration reform earlier this spring. He stands in single digits in Iowa and facing big hurdles in trying to turn around his candidacy. Giuliani has an opportunity to steal moderate Republicans in the state.
"How many choices do I have" said Stan Redeker, who attended Giuliani's event at the Tic Toc restaurant in Boone and said he considers himself one of those moderates. "Everybody else keeps running away from us."
Thompson may play better with Iowa's more conservative caucus electorate than he does with New Hampshire's primary electorate, but he will be starting late in a state where organization is important.
Giuliani's advisers recall that in 1996, Bob Dole won the Iowa caucses with just 26 percent of the vote. They would like nothing better than to see as many as the minor candidates stay in the race until January and hope for few casualties from Saturday's straw poll.
For Giuliani's strategy, the more candidates fighting on the right, the better.
Giuliani advisers believe he could win Florida even without having won any of the early states, but that is a highly risky strategy. They also believe he is surprisingly strong in South Carolina, and that there is eveidence that social issues are far less important to the electorate today than they were in some past cycles.
All of which means that Giuliani and his team are now focused on a strong finish in Iowa next January. "We need to do well in Iowa and we will compete aggressively there," said one senior adviser.
When Giuliani dropped out of the straw poll competition, campaign manager Mike DuHaime said it was decision based principally on resource allocation. Why spend a million or two million on the straw poll in August when you could save that money for television ads in December and January, just as voters are making up their minds?
If Giuliani commits his energies to Iowa and New Hampshire, as he told audiences this weekend that he would, and has put aside those straw poll resources for television ads, his decision to skip Saturday's straw poll may look a lot shrewder than it did in June. As the candidate put it Sunday, "We think ours is going to turn out to be the better strategy."
Posted by: motivado | August 7, 2007 6:51 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: zombie_process | August 6, 2007 11:24 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: motivado | August 6, 2007 5:50 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: anjos | August 6, 2007 4:51 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: bsimon | August 6, 2007 4:48 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: roberthaley25 | August 6, 2007 4:25 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: shewholives | August 6, 2007 4:18 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: noGOP4me | August 6, 2007 3:49 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: adrienne_najjar | August 6, 2007 3:42 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: kec132 | August 6, 2007 3:24 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: jsdeacon | August 6, 2007 3:18 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: TomIII | August 6, 2007 3:18 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: aries4 | August 6, 2007 3:14 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: logcabin1836 | August 6, 2007 3:07 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: NewBostonYankee | August 6, 2007 3:01 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: rdfreel | August 6, 2007 2:56 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: coolbob | August 6, 2007 2:47 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: wldrake | August 6, 2007 2:43 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: grannymiller | August 6, 2007 2:05 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: ajain31 | August 6, 2007 1:51 PM | Report abuse
The comments to this entry are closed.