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Friendship and Politics

1:04 PM, Jan 21, 2008 • By MATTHEW CONTINETTI
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John Podhoretz:

The logic of the McCain and Giuliani candidacies has always pretty much been the same - a strong leader in the War on Terror who is able to secure the votes of independents. But with Giuliani's political life on the line, he has no choice but to try to uncouple McCain's recent converts from the Arizona Republican and send them back Rudy's way. And McCain will have no choice but to respond - and given the aggressive tone of the Giuliani hit this morning, McCain will surely give as good as he got.

Thus do political friendships collide with political reality.

Speaking anecdotally, I can say that during the last 48 hours the Giuliani campaign's attacks on McCain have been on par with, if not more intense, than Romney's. Yet one lesson of the GOP primary campaign so far is that attacking one's opponent seldom works. And what will happen if Fred Thompson decides not to compete in Florida? Will his voters go to Giuliani, Romney, or McCain? I suspect that the reason McCain has not been able to win the conservative Republican vote outright, instead basically splitting it with whomever his major opponent was in New Hampshire or South Carolina, is that the multicandidate field splits the conservative Republican vote four different ways. There's the sense that as the field narrows, more conservative Republicans will rally to the anti-McCain alternative. But that may be wishful thinking on the part of those who are dead-set against McCain's nomination.