New York, New Jersey, Connecticut. Touted as momentum-proof by Rudy Giuliani’s campaign, the tri-state area was a sure sweep for the mayor. No longer. John McCain has captured the lead in all three states, establishing himself as the national front-runner. What happened to Giuliani’s crumbling candidacy?
Part of the reason is his struggle to remain relevant during the last month, as attention swarmed around the early states. Discounting the early states, Giuliani racked up a series of embarrassing finishes in the hope of a Florida firewall. Yet the firewall relied on a muddled field lacking a clear alternative. An alternative has emerged, a rejuvenated McCain sparked by victories in New Hampshire and South Carolina.
Compounding Giuliani’s struggles are McCain’s strengths. The senator has the strongest national security credentials amongst the Republican field, effectively nullifying the linchpin of Giuliani’s candidacy. McCain is the most electable Republican, usurping another of Giuliani’s reputed strengths. The two candidates are similar – one can siphon votes from another. Also hurting Giuliani’s candidacy is the economy shifting to the forefront of the campaign, displacing Iraq and terrorism.
The mayor has gambled on an unprecedented strategy, with a large element of luck. Matters may still change as Giuliani has invested heavily in Florida, but the road ahead is grueling.