Where’s Rudy?

Ken AshfordElection 2008Leave a Comment

From Vanity Fair’s James Wolcott, a precisely correct assessment of the disappearing-via-incompetence act more popularly known as the Giuliani campaign.  Think about it: Rudy Gulliani was the national frontrunner a year ago in many, many polls. He led virtually all of his Republican opponents, and several of the top Democratic candidates as well. Today, he has been drubbed in every race and is left in a do-or-die situation in Florida.

That’s the fascinating, baffling mystery of Giuliani’s campaign: How unsmart it’s been, how unattuned and utterly lacking in maneuverability and tactical finesse, as if Rudy’s been programmed only to move backwards or forwards on a single rail line. The realization still doesn’t seem to have infiltrated his campaign’s movable bunker that you can’t run solely on terrorism and security when underlying economic conditions are crumbling beneath millions of American families. Consider the contrast with Mitt Romney. Yes, he’s an acrylic fascimile of a pandering politician, every word out of his mouth a synthetic note that even Brian Eno couldn’t bead into a musical abstract, but after going 0 for 2 in Iowa and New Hampshire, he adapted his message for Michigan once he inputted the degree of economic anxiety and rot prevailing there, and projected specific remedies. He didn’t do as so many Beltway Republicans would have done–tell the underemployed and indebted to eat some supply-side theory and floss afterwards with the Laffer Curve or some such Larry Kudlow/Steve Forbes bullshit. He didn’t act as if making the Bush tax cuts permanent was some end-all be-all answer. Romney presented himself as ready to ride to the rescue with government programs if need be and, guess what, it worked–he won.

Rudy has never adapted or expanded his message. He seems weirdly clueless and insulated, as if he’d like to upstage his opponents by entering the debate forums wearing a surgical mask with a smoke machine going in the wings so that he could mime his 9/11 heroics all over again, with the Superman theme playing in the background. But perhaps that’s the only option left to somebody whom the more voters see of him, the less they like them. His candidacy could only thrive in a climate of fear, but the fear shifted to the economy and Rudy didn’t shift with it, which is why he now finds himself grinningly buried up to the neck in death ash like some character in Beckett. It’s hard to gain traction from inside an urn.

Over at TPM, they’re saying Rudy ’08 is "in serious competition for worst presidential campaign ever…" and provide this illustrative graph: