Every indication is that Rudy Giuliani is sinking like a stone in Florida. Barring a miracle, he’ll finish either a bit above or a bit below Mike Huckabee. Once Florida Republicans saw that Rudy was dropping in the polls, I think a lot of them jumped ship, thinking they’d rather make a choice between McCain and Romney than use their vote on a candidate who isn’t going to win. Hence, I suspect, the continued downward slide.
If Florida is between McCain and Romney, then the nomination race is between McCain and Romney. It’s too bad; I think Giuliani might have been our strongest candidate in the general election. He was expected to fight McCain to be the first choice of the party’s moderate wing, and, given the problems McCain has had with the party’s base, Rudy had every reason to think he could come out on top and be one of the last candidates standing, even if he skipped the early primaries.
That strategy was a huge gamble, and it doesn’t appear to have paid off. One lesson, I think, is that Rudy’s participation in the debates, in which he always performed well, wasn’t enough to keep him in the public eye given his absence from the day-to-day headlines associated with the early primaries. It’s too bad; at the same time, it’s hard not to credit McCain for going out and wresting the finalist’s slot through hard work in the early states.
Barring a surprise in Florida, Republican primary voters and caucus-goers on mega-Tuesday will face a stark but classic political choice: do they go with Romney, whose views across a broad range of issues are more palatable to conservatives and whose economic expertise may be badly needed, or with McCain, who seems pretty clearly more likely to prevent the Clintons from re-inhabiting the White House? It’s not an easy choice. We’ll have more to say about it in due course.
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