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The Giuliani Mistake

Rudy Giuliani was the presidential frontrunner for the GOP from December of 2004 until December of 2007. He consistently polled 20 points above any of his competitors and Giuliani supporters were persistently working over conservatives to gather support for the New England Republican with the liberal track record.

Now Giuliani is bowing out of the race after only receiving enough support for two delegates, which puts him on par with Duncan Hunter (who received one or two delegates, I forget exactly) and well behind Ron Paul (6 delegates). Giuliani erred by refusing to contest the early states and it cost him the nomination.

The strategy can be rationalized. Campaigns are about managing scarce resources, namely money; Giuliani knew he polled better in the larger states and if he could survive until Super Tuesday he would have a good chance of winning the nomination. Unfortunately this also meant he kept himself out of the spotlight early in the race and allowed other candidates to present themselves to a divided and leaderless GOP base.

Every state, every early primary matters. If Giuliani was going to represent all Republicans as our presidential candidate he was going to need to win over the hearts of Republicans in New Hampshire, South Carolina, Michigan and Iowa. If Giuliani was the right choice he needed to prove it to conservatives, evangelicals and everyone else. He simply ignored them and they in turn were courted by the other candidates to great effect.

Giuliani didn’t need to waste resources like money on the early states. There are cost efficient campaign methods that keep your name in the paper and allow you to at least place. He could have run cheap campaigns based on grassroots efforts and earned media. I have been contacted by the Romney campaign, the McCain campaign and the Ron Paul campaign and been asked to help out. The only contact I had with the Giuliani campaign were the occasional emails from a local Giuliani supporter talking about the latest polls on Giuliani. This to me shows the weakness of his campaign and his failure to utilize all the methods for getting your message out to voters.

Rudy could have saved his money for the big states while still campaigning aggressively in the early primary states. You don’t always need TV ads to win an election. An old fashioned campaign can work (or heck, even an active eCampaign would do). Giuliani needed to keep bringing his message to the voters; win or lose he needed to keep himself in the minds of the voters and the media.

By not actively contesting the early primaries he allowed the electorate to ignore him. I was sad to see him go but it was his own miscalculation which cost him.

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4 Responses

  1. I think the bigger miscalculation was believing he could be a viable national GOP candidate for office.

    I’m not sad to see him go. He’s pro-choice, anti-traditional marriage, and just didn’t fit in with the base of the party.

    There’s a certain affection a lot of people have for Rudy because of his leadership after 9/11, but other than that what’s the guy got?

  2. This gamble might have paid off if things played out as Giuliani expected. From a few things I’ve read recently, it sounds as if Rudy thought that McCain would be out by the time Florida rolled around. If that had happened, Giuliani probably would have picked up a lot of those voters. I don’t know if would have helped him win, but the strategy would perhaps have been more viable if he was right about McCain.

  3. JST: Funny, I would point out that McCain ran the sort of campaign (low on funds, basic grassroots stuff) Giuliani should have. Underestimating your opponents is another mistake you can throw onto the Giuliani tab.

    Andy-

    I agree, I would not have caucused for Giuliani and I might not have even voted for him (I’m still on the fence about that, even with Giuliani gone). But Giuliani was a good Republican. If the GOP ever wants to win in New England we need to tolerate men like Giuliani.

  4. Giuliani’s miscalculation will no doubt propel many more states to move up their primaries in 2012. The parties have that long to fix this, with a national primary or something else to stop this nonsense.

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