Politics and International Affairs and the quest for the ulterior motive.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

A Rudy Shock?
Florida goes in for its crucial primaries today to elect its Republican nominee for the November US presidential elections. The Republican fray is wide open with four candidates vying to win the delegate rich ‘Sunshine State’ with the hope that a win in Florida will propel them to win the February 5th 24 state Super Tuesday election night. National frontrunner John McCain along with Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee and Rudy Giuliani are contesting this contest which can have far reaching implications. For the former mayor of New York, Rudy Giuliani, this contest holds the most significance. The Giuliani strategy has been to forego the contests in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina and focus on Florida to propel him to a win on Super Tuesday. This strategy is one which is brave yet inherently risks the former mayor to be all but out if he loses the state. This all or none strategy has taken many analysts by surprise and elucidated chuckles from his rivals.

The Giuliani camp is ruing the fact that in a matter of a month the focus of these elections has moved away from national security and the war on terror, to the domestic issue of the economy. Giuliani was always quick to tout his national security credentials. As the “9/11 mayor” he told voters that he had the experience, resolve and courage to take on Islamic fundamentalism and protect the homeland from future attacks. The war in Iraq was the initial focus of many traditional Republican voters, considering they had put their neck on the line backing the current commander in chief, George Bush to invade Iraq. With the military surge bringing the desired peace, albeit with little in way of political reconciliation between the Shia and Sunni law makers, the Republicans were keen to project Iraq as a plan that faltered initially but has stabilized in time. But unfortunately for Giuliani, good news rarely makes headlines and so was the case in Iraq. Take for example, the largely peaceful Shia festival of Ashura, marred by violence in preceding years, barely made it to the headlines in the mainline news organizations, and very soon Iraq has now taken second position as an issue to the faltering US economy for voters. And in the economics sweepstakes Rudy cannot match the experience of Mitt Romney, a career business man and governor or John McCain a veteran of many economic and national reforms on various issues as a senator.

The other major disaster to hit the Giuliani camp has been his ceding of the top spot in national polls to John McCain and Mitt Romney. Till the beginning of the primaries in January, Giuliani enjoyed broad based support from the Republican base, although even at the time social conservatives had sworn against him. By the time the primaries in the four states finished, Giuliani finds himself at fourth position behind McCain, Romney and Huckabee. What a month can do in politics! Then again, the Giuliani strategy is based on the fact that he will gain momentum in Florida and use his national name recognition to win Super Tuesday. However, what works against this strategy is the fact that the Republican voters have been able to understand over the past month where a candidate stands on the big ticket issues in these elections. By concentrating on Florida, Giuliani has forsaken national standing for a narrow state consideration. And even in the likelihood of a win in Florida, it seems unlikely that the win will suddenly give Giuliani the momentum to win dozens of states come next Tuesday. The past primaries have shown that both on the Republican and the Democratic side, the balance remains even after four contests. The best Giuliani can achieve after a win in Florida is become “a” contender rather than “the” contender. Giuliani must feel the heat and if he can beat the rest to take Florida, he will become the comeback kid of these elections. At the moment, one feels that Giuliani might just be preparing to pack his bags and check out of the presidential race.


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