Thomas Beaumont of the Des Moines Register reports Rudy Giuliani has been stuck on whether or not to compete in the Iowa straw poll in Ames this summer. According to Beaumont, saying no would potentially diminish the importance of Iowa in the nominating process or draw attention to his abortion stance. If he did go and performed well, the results would demonstrate his ability to win over social conservatives.
To skip Ames would be an egregious error. In the last few weeks, Giuliani’s leads in the polls have decreased as John McCain has surged back up to a solid number-two spot. According to a recent poll, only 30% of Giuliani’s backers are firmly committed to him. There is the potential for a huge erosion of support as we move closer to the primaries. There are still eight months before Iowa, and even though many people are paying close attention to the race, a large component of the electorate doesn’t follow the candidates closely. When asked who they support and only two names are familiar, McCain and Giuliani (although Romney is trying to change that with his advertising blitz) , they are likely to go with “America’s mayor” for his post 9/11 actions and the fact that he’s a Washington outsider.
Passing over the contest would be perceived as not being committed to Iowa, which could be taken as a signal that Giuliani doesn’t think he can win over social conservatives. It also lowers his poll numbers as Iowa Republicans feel slighted by his absence. By banking only on large states and moderate voters, Giuliani alienates a significant component of the Republican base and underestimates the power of momentum. Say McCain were to perform above expectations in the early contests and carry momentum into February 5th, where states such as California, New York, and New Jersey vote. McCain is also an extremely appealing candidate to moderates, harming the crux of the Giuliani strategy.
If Giuliani were to attend the Ames caucus, he shows that he truly cares about the state and appreciates its importance in the nominating process. McCain and Romney are already distributing the $30 tickets to supporters and setting up buses for them, Giuliani should do the same. And if Giuliani were to beat expectations, whatever they may be in eight months time, it sets him up excellently for 2/5.