Is Rudy Giuliani Frontloaded for Success?
It has been fascinating to watch the conventional wisdom on the impact of the frontloaded primary schedule evolve over the past year. Last winter, there was much speculation that a big multi-state primary day early in February 2008, would lessen the traditional influence of early states like Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina, in picking the nominees. Conventional wisdom suggested that campaigns would need to fundraise and organize on a national scale, in order to remain competitive across a large number of closely packed primaries and caucuses.
By this fall, however, most campaigns seemed to have reverted back to the time-honored strategy of trying to build momentum through victories in one or more of the early (pre-February 5th) states. Some campaigns were forced to adopt this approach due to the reality of fundraising and organizational shortfalls, while others switched in response to the realization that these early states continue to capture the lion’s share of media attention and public scrutiny. The new conventional wisdom was that Iowa would be pivotal for the Democratic race, while South Carolina would likely be decisive for the Republican contest. Both campaigns and media seemed to respond accordingly to this revised political narrative.
That is until now. In the past 24 hours, a significant amount of press has focused on statements by Rudy Giuliani’s campaign manager, Mike DuHaime, that Giuliani would not necessarily need wins in any of the early states, in order to secure the Republican nomination. Giuliani would hang in until the big multi-state primary day on February 5th, where he could amass a large number of delegates in states like Florida and New York.
So, we have come full circle with the conventional wisdom, and the Giuliani campaign has now set itself up as a test case for assessing the impact of the frontloaded primary schedule on the outcome of the presidential races. If Mitt Romney wins in the early states where he currently leads, like Iowa and New Hampshire, yet still loses the nomination to Giuliani, then that would be a remarkable testament to the changed nature of our presidential nomination process.
No presidential campaign has ever lost in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina, and gone on to win the nomination. Giuliani’s campaign may have done the delegate math correctly, but primary races are not conducted in a vacuum. Early wins by Romney would fundamentally alter the media’s narrative of the race, and voter perceptions of candidate viability, in ways that the Giuliani campaign cannot possibly predict at this point. So, we will all be watching to see whether the Giuliani campaign is truly frontloaded for success.

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