Tom Bevan reports on the Giuliani nomination strategy, as described by his top aides. Not surprisingly, it consists of making respectable showings in the early states of New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Michigan, and then winning big in Florida and, on February 5, in states like New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, California, and Illinois. The theory is that the early states generally are not “winner take all,” so that even without early wins, Guiliani should not trail Romney substantially in the delegate count. By February 6, the thinking goes, he’ll be the delegate leader.
This seems like a plausible scenario — more plausible than the view that, because no one since Estes Kefauver in 1952 has won a string of early primaries yet lost the nomination, a string of early wins by Romney will end the race. Early primary losses signal doom for a candidate only to the extent that the losses reflect true weakness. For example, Howard Dean lost in Iowa because the party faithful there concluded that he wasn’t electable and, relatedly, that he was somewhat unstable. There was no reason to think that voters in other states would consider him more electable and stable than their Iowa counterparts. When Dean puncuated his Iowa loss with the scream, and then lost in New Hampshire, next door to his home state, it was all over.
Giuliani losses in states like Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina wouldn’t signal general weakness. Iowa is dominated on the Republican side by social conservatives. Giuliani’s inability to appeal to them in a state where he hasn’t campaigned much would be inconsequential. In New Hampshire, Giuliani needs to run well, but failure to beat Romney in Romney’s backyard wouldn’t signal significant weakness. And South Carolina is well outside of Giuliani’s wheelhouse.
Early Romney wins will, of course, push him into the forefront and generate momentum. But this is a two-edged sword. On the one hand, social conservatives and other anti-Giuliani voters may coalesce around Romney, and an early show of strength will be an asset when it comes to raising funds. On the other hand, he
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