Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Rudy can fail and will do so meekly

With a less energized base than the Democrats, and no circus of race and gender, the Republican primary has been flying under the radar for the last couple months. Tonight the GOP will finally come center stage, as the contest in Florida will go a long way towards determining if John McCain or Mitt Romney will represent the Republicans in 2008.

Right now Florida is as close as can be. With at least a half-a-million votes already cast in early voting, I give a slight edge to McCain, who was in the lead a week ago. But one thing is certain: Tonight will spell the end of Rudy Giuliani's bid for the White House. After he finishes a distant third at best, the former New York mayor will drop out of the race.

While Giuliani will be criticized for his plan to forgo the early primaries and begin his campaign in Florida, this radical strategy was not what did him in. In fact, with the way the early states shook out, the plan could have very well worked.

Giuliani trails in Florida not because he didn't compete in South Carolina, but because instead of being the firebrand people expected -- the one who would either rip the heart out Islamic terrorism or trample the Constitution while wearing a dress -- Rudy turned out to be unenthusiastic and ineffective campaigner.

Without the entourage of cops and officials who usually stood behind him during his days of running New York city from behind a lectern, Giuliani looked meek and small. His campaign speeches and debate performances were thoughtful -- almost wonkish -- but way too low key. Not just for a guy who had reputation for having and conjuring such strong opinions, but for anyone running for an office higher than president of the 4-H club.

As Giuliani returns to his life of consulting fees and social climbing cougars, the campaign loses what was once projected to have been its primary source of polarizing crazy. Luckily for media outlets across the spectrum Bill Clinton has jumped in to fill that vital role, and the man who never really showed up will barely be missed.

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