Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Farce That Is Giuliani's Fortress Florida

Take a good, hard look at this.

And then ask yourself: Why do Republican voters come back to Rudy Giuliani in Florida?

He's already living there. He's already on the air there. He's already phone banking there. He's already blanketing the state with mail there.

And yet Rudy is still bleeding Sunshine State support.

Can Rudy Giuliani expect to contrast himself so well with the winner of South Carolina and Mitt Romney that Florida voters swing back to him? Let alone with whoever else is left when Florida rolls around? Probably (almost certainly) not.

Can Rudy Giuliani expect that Florida voters will wake up the day after South Carolina and say to themselves, "Wow, this race is still a muddle. I'm going with Rudy"? Probably (almost certainly) not.

Several smart folks have spend the last few days asking: Does momentum matter in 2008?

And the answer is: Yes! Of course it does.

The only winner of the first three contests who did not get a tangible bump from their win was Mitt Romney in Michigan.

And we would argue that the reason for that is because 1. Michigan ain't New Hampshire, Iowa or South Carolina and therefore nobody really cared about the Michigan Primary (besides Romney and McCain), 2. Whoever might have cared about Michigan was told by Team McCain that Romney is a "native son" who spent zillions and 3. Clinton and Obama were sucking all the oxygen out of Michigan's earned media cycles with their race debate.

Noted: But even after all that, we've still not downplaying the fact that Romney had to win Michigan and John McCain would have loved to.

In Iowa, Mike Huckabee became a GOP contender overnight when he won. And it gave him the name ID and the resources to place third in New Hampshire, third in Michigan and gives him a shot to win South Carolina.

In New Hampshire, John McCain came back from the dead and got a bounce in South Carolina, he got a bounce in Florida and he got a bounce in the national polls (which don't mean squat).

So momentum matters. Granted, to different candidates in different places it may matter more or it may matter less, but it matters.

But something else matters as well: You have to play to stay.

And through Iowa and through New Hampshire and through Michigan and (almost) through South Carolina Rudy Giuliani has been nowhere. Except fighting for position with Duncan Hunter, Ron Paul and uncommitted.

And he's watched his Florida numbers drop (drop, drop, still dropping!) because of it.

And we think that Mitt Romney (and his zillions), whoever wins South Carolina and maybe the 2nd place winner out of South Carolina are going to come roaring into Florida - muddle or not - and they are going to roll right over Rudy Giuliani's firewall.

Because why do those Florida voters come back to Rudy?