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Richelieu: Rudy on the Road to Toast City

12:35 PM, Dec 14, 2007 • By RICHELIEU
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Rudy Giuliani is fast heading toward Toast City. A new Florida poll - admittedly done by robots - has him sinking faster than a corpse dumped out of a Coup DeVille at midnight in the Meadowlands swamp. And Florida is Rudy's self-proclaimed "firewall." (My guess is reality for Rudy is somewhat better than this poll - the mayor has a cluster of real support in South Florida - but the strong negative trend is unmistakable.)

Nor is it surprising. Rudy's polling spin has always been built on weak timber. It's easy to lead early state polls when you are famous and no one has heard of your opponents. But in mature markets like Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina where others are active, Rudy does poorly. Plus the mayor is getting hammered on ethics in the national media. If he loses IA, NH, MI, SC, and NV, Rudy will become a single-digits guy in the Feb. 5 states he has been boasting about. Tough news for all those NYC conservatives who have been waving polls around heralding the unstoppable Rudy for months and months.

The good news here is for John McCain, the other candidate sharing Rudy's security-and-toughness space. McCain is rising in New Hampshire polls, and savvy on the ground observers there tell me McCain's campaign is catching fire. I still think McCain should have rolled the dice and committed TV money to Iowa to beat Rudy and Fred there and nab a third place finish, which would rocket him into New Hampshire as the big surprise Iowa winner. But if the Mitt vs. Huck tussle damages both, McCain could still potentially upset the field in New Hampshire and then be off to the races. McCain's great advantage is that, unlike Huckabee and Romney, his numbers are deep and rock solid. You either like him or you don't. So he enters the chaos of the post-Iowa period with a tough knot of real support in New Hampshire, which is not a bad secondary hand to play in a chaotic situation.

The "Romney loses Iowa and he's toast" spin is also wrong. Romney has the dough to stay in for a while, and if he and Huckabee are the top two finishers in both IA and NH, the race could boil down to a two-way contest between Huckabee and Romney that Mitt would have a good chance to win as January rolls on.

Meanwhile, Hillary sinks further into the quicksand.