Open Thread: Republican Presidential Nomination
Since the collapse of the (now slightly rebounding) John McCain campaign earlier this year, the conventional wisdom has been that the Republican nomination would be decided in a one-on-one battle between Rudy Giuliani and whoever emerged as the winner of the GOP’s “Conservative Division” in the early states.
However, almost all of the politically knowledgable and politically active people I have spoken to about the Republican nomination race over the past few weeks have expressed a version of this graf from today’s Rich Lowry National Review Online column…
Nationally, [Rudy Giuliani’s] numbers have been on slow downward slide since March. He was at 44-percent in an ABC News/Washington Post poll in February, and at 25-percent in the same poll last week…The horserace question is: Can the GOP field still be split into favorites and dark horses, or are there as many as five top tier candidates who control their own destiny, i.e. who have a chance to win without the help of a major gaffe by their opponents?
This has trashed the Giuliani theory of the race, which was that his national lead in the polls was a bankable commodity that he could redeem even after losses in the early states of Iowa, New Hampshire, Michigan, and South Carolina. It turns out that his national lead hasn’t even survived the media attention that has gone to the hot candidate in Iowa, Mike Huckabee, weeks before anyone votes. What happens when Giuliani’s competitors begin actually winning the early contests, with the attendant crush of attention and buzz?
The substantive question — based on the fact that’s it’s already been a long campaign where people are at least familiar with the names involved — is: Which GOP candidate has the best “second act” potential to capture the imagination of the public?