So much for his brilliant innovative primary campaign strategy. Rudy Giuliani's high-stakes gamble on a strong showing in the Florida Republican Presidential Primary came up a cropper today. The former New York City Mayor finished a weak third behind winner Senator John McCain and runner-up former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. AP and Time Magazine are reporting that Giuliani is dropping out of the race and will endorse his personal friend, John McCain, on Wednesday in California.
This development poses a triple dilemma for the Romney Campaign. First, Senator McCain has gained additional momemtum rolling into the February 5 Uber-Super Tuesday primary elections. He has won a GOP primary where the voters were limited to registered Republicans, mooting the criticism that his success to date has been due to the support of independents and Democrats who might well abandon him in the general election.
Second, an endorsement by Rudy Giuliani will cement McCain's status as the Center-Right favorite in the Republican race, and should have significant impact in New York, New Jersey and California.
Third, while Giuliani is exiting the race, apparently Mike Huckabee is not. That means that Huckabee will continue to draw off votes of Christian evangelicals and social conservatives who otherwise would presumably vote for Mitt Romney. While the proposition is arguable, in my view the continuing presence of Mike Huckabee in this contest hurts Mitt Romney more than it hurts John McCain.
It will be interesting to see what the Romney campaign can do, and will do, to counter these considerations. Frankly, all that can be done is to redouble one's efforts, and one's media expenditures, to try to capture as many delegates as possible on February 5th.
Another point to keep in mind--it is very likely that no single candidate will go into the convention with enough delegates to clinch the GOP Presidential nomination. In that context, Senator McCain's unpopularity with the Republican party faithful may work against him.
One hopes that both of the candidates in what now amounts to a two horse race will take the high road. The Republican Party cannot afford a contest that is so bruising, divisive and ill-willed that the partisans of the loser cannot wholeheartedly and enthusiastically back the winner come November. Indeed, the only winner of such a debacle would be the Democratic nominee.