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Richelieu: The McCain Scenario

7:11 AM, Dec 20, 2007 • By RICHELIEU
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John McCain could indeed win the nomination. First, he upsets Rudy and Thompson to win third in Iowa and bounces into McCain-fertile New Hampshire as the big surprise of the Iowa caucus. While McCain is still campaigning in Iowa, that means little unless he invests some money in real Iowa TV. We'll know in the next few days. Without TV support, his chances of an upset are slim. But Iowa polling does show McCain within striking distance of third in Iowa.

But there is another way for McCain to win. McCain finishes fourth in Iowa, but still ahead of the rapidly fading Rudy Giuliani. McCain will still get a small bounce out of that, and he's been climbing steadily over the last four weeks in New Hampshire. Rudy's decline - rumors abound that the Giuliani machine has run out of money - is a godsend to McCain in New Hampshire. Perhaps McCain can upset Romney and Huckabee there and start surging into Michigan and South Carolina.

Rudy could be more than a mere spectator in all of this. Here is a farfetched but not impossible scenario you can use to wow your friends at cocktail parties: Rudy continues to drop in the polls. His campaign is indeed broke. The media continue to hammer him on ethics. He finishes a dismal fifth or even sixth in Iowa. Polls show him third or worse in New Hampshire. With his campaign broke and without money to run TV ads, Rudy faces a stark choice. He can either run and badly lose the next four contests - NH, MI, SC, NV - and then collapse in Florida. Or he can make huge brazen move to capture the entire race.

On the Saturday after the Iowa caucus, Rudy Giuliani drops out of the race and strongly endorses John McCain. McCain surges and wins New Hampshire. A national McCain surge accelerates. McCain campaigns with Rudy at his side, who is obviously the frontrunner now for vice president on a McCain/Giuliani security-and-competence ticket. In 24 hours Rudy goes from doomed to Superman. With McCain likely to only serve one term, Vice President Giuliani enters 2012 as the GOP frontrunner. You can argue a similar scenario for Romney, but the McCain scenario is more plausible. The two are friends, and McCain's age makes him more likely to serve just one term.

Crazy? Sure. Rudy hates to quit. But he also has a big card to play, and if the next two weeks don't break his way, a very big move may not be so dumb after all.