Bad, But Not Worst

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TPM Reader GC follows up on JW’s Rudy commentary

Josh et al:

It’s fun to pile on Rudy (in the sense of hysterically laughing after narrowly avoiding a car crash), but, historically, it’s clear that Gary Hart in ’88 and Ted Kennedy in ’80 were both polling higher (Kennedy’s numbers, in particular, are stunning in retrospect) than Giuliani ever did.

Just trying to keep a small sense of perspective on a Friday.

I haven’t gone back and reviewed the numbers. But I think Rudy is at least in serious competition for worst presidential campaign ever, even in the face of these worthies. Hart, of course, was knocked out because of a sex scandal. So I would say that this is the campaign evaluation equivalent of a force majeure. It’s sort of beyond the scope of the campaign per se. With Kennedy, I think you’ve got to take into account the fact that he was running against an incumbent president, albeit a profoundly weakened one. And this has proved almost an impossibility in American history.

Now, we don’t have the Rudy campaign post-mortem yet. But if things go as they’re looking, I believe Rudy will have a robust claim to worst ever not so much on the basis of his top poll numbers but on the rate and magnitude of the fall. Kennedy, after all, did get plenty of delegates. Carter just beat him.

The thing with Rudy is that he was the dominant frontrunner for a year. He raised tons of money, actually shaped the whole race. Contrary to what he’s claimed he campaigned extensively in Iowa and extremely aggressively in New Hampshire. The strategy he now claims is simply an ex-post facto rationalization of the fact that he got his ass royally kicked in both states. Indeed, we’ve now had three major contests in the Republican race and Rudy has yet to bag a single delegate.

Now, despite the fact that I think Rudy’s campaign has basically flatlined, Eric Kleefeld and I just looked at the numbers out of Florida, and the extreme weakness of the rest of the field has at least made it possible that Rudy win Florida. McCain’s ahead there now and Rudy’s back in the pack in second or third. But McCain’s losing ground in South Carolina. So if Romney takes Nevada and Huck takes SC, perhaps Rudy could stride forward amidst the bodies and take first in Florida. Not likely, but not impossible.

So perhaps he’ll pull it out in Florida and then lose respectably on Super Tuesday. At the moment though, we’re well into the process and he’s gone from the dominant frontrunner, with tens of millions of dollars, to an also-ran, often running behind Ron Paul.

Remember, again, here’s the big picture on his numbers in the important states and nationwide …

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