A number of reasons have been given for Rudy Giuliani’s sagging poll numbers. Some have mentioned the decline of national security as an issue, last week I brought up Hillary Clinton’s loss of inevitability, and obviously the flurry of NYPD security stories couldn’t have helped. All of these are valid reasons. But I think another explanation is that we’re already seeing the perils of Giuliani’s early state strategy. For months, due to his celebrity and national frontrunner status, Giuliani was dominating media coverage for good (taking on the NY Times, Clinton and MoveOn in defense of Gen. Petraeus) or ill (answering his cell phone at the NRA). But in the last month, media attention has shifted from focusing on the national frontrunner to those doing battle in the early states, even though they have a lower celebrity profile. Because Giuliani isn’t a factor in those states, he has been boxed out of media coverage, and even his major speech this Saturday was overshadowed by the Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney rivalry in Iowa, and John McCain’s potential for a surge in New Hampshire. It’s not only affecting the type of coverage he can get, but also removes him from debates that would be helpful to him. For instance, if he were in the mix in Iowa right now, Giuliani could be contrasting his fiscal and tough-on-crime record with Huckabee’s fiscal record and penchant for granting clemencies to violent criminals. When Huckabee came out and accused Bush of having an “arrogant bunker mentaility” and called for talking to Iran like they were a parent or friend who hasn’t been spoken to in awhile, it normally would have been perfect fodder for Giuliani to go after him and bring the discussion back to his strength–national security. But because he isn’t competitive in Iowa, he needs Huckabee to take down Romney, and thus has to sit on the sidelines. Instead, Romney was the one who took the oppourtunity to defend President Bush and mock Huckabee’s foreign policy statements. By waiting until Florida rolls around, Giuliani may find himself crowded out of the race, with difficulty getting any ink. And his fate will be largely out of his control. His success is now very much determined by variables outside of his control–the early states being split in a favorable way for him, or a major news event that somehow changes the nature of the debate in the race.
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