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RealClearPolitics HorseRaceBlog

By Jay Cost

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Giuliani's Primary Strategy

There was a very strange article that appeared in the Washington Times on Saturday. It had to do with Giuliani's primary strategy. Joseph Curl wrote:

Republican presidential contender Rudolph W. Giuliani is counting on surviving the four early primary states and then implementing a national primary strategy that starts in Florida and explodes across the country, from New York to California, campaign analysts and consultants say.

While Iowa and New Hampshire are almost always the bellwether contests, and often the kingmakers, the former New York City mayor is "turning upside down the laws of political gravity," one strategist said.

"It looks like they're going to try to survive early, and he's got 16 million bucks in the bank, more than anybody else but [Mitt] Romney, and they'll try to roll through this thing, get to the big states on January 29 and Super Tuesday," said Scott Reed, a former Bob Dole campaign strategist who is not working for any presidential campaign this year.

Well - this starts off sensibly enough. We all know by now that Giuliani is planning to take the nomination by doing well on February 5. Unfortunately, the author takes things a bit too far - and uses comments from strategists in place of some simple fact checking.

"His strategy is centered around Florida plus February 5th and having enough money to do advertising campaigns in those big states," said Charlie Black, a Republican strategist close to the Bush administration who this campaign is working for Sen. John McCain. [Snip]

Mr. Reed said that tracking the movements and media-time purchases of Mr. Giuliani gives a window into his strategy.

"Look at where he's spending his time; look at where he's spending his money -- they're not camping in Iowa and New Hampshire; they're not spending a lot on advertising in Iowa and New Hampshire."

He, too, expressed doubt about the strategy.

"I just think it's difficult for Giuliani to lose the first four main events and think everybody in Florida is still going to be hanging on. ... I wouldn't say it's a losing strategy, but it's never been done," Mr. Reed said.

I, too, would express doubt about this strategy. The trick is - it does not seem to be what the Giuliani campaign is doing. The Washington Post has a handy-dandy website that keeps track of candidate visits - we can use it to verify the claims made in this article. Since the beginning of the year, Giuliani has visited New Hampshire more than any other state. Iowa comes second. Florida, California, and South Carolina round out the top five.

Now - maybe Giuliani has altered his campaign strategy. Indeed, we might expect any candidate to do this as his position in various states shifts, and he must deal with the problem of resource constraints. To check this, I examined his campaign trips since October 1, 2007 through yesterday. I excluded the debates. The results I found were inconsistent with the claims of the article. Giuliani has made eight campaign appearances in New Hampshire, four in Florida, four in South Carolina, three in Iowa. He has made six appearances in states that will come on Super Tuesday.

Not only has Giuliani spent the most time in New Hampshire - he camped out there for two complete working days. October 3rd and October 14th were dedicated exclusively to New Hampshire.

I think it is certainly true that Giuliaini is banking on doing well on the fifth of February. I also think that he may not be trying to win any of the early states. Instead, he may be trying to retain his viability until Florida. But it is just wrong to claim that Giuliani is not spending his time in the early states.

Relatedly, we can debate whether he is thinking about writing off Iowa. He may be. After all, his trip last week was his first in about two months - and his position in the Iowa polls has been weakening. But it is just ridiculous to argue that he is writing off all the early states. He clearly is not. He has been spending a good bit of time in both New Hampshire and South Carolina - and he has visited both states at least one time every month since July. What's more, his poll positions in New Hampshire and South Carolina are both fairly strong. Our average shows him in second place in New Hampshire, and tied for first place in South Carolina. Giuliani's frequent trips to both states reflect those positions.

-Jay Cost