McCain Leads Giuliani in New York

McCain Leads Giuliani in New York As if more evidence were needed of the perils of Rudy Giuliani’s “big state strategy,” a new Siena College poll has him trailing John McCain in his home state of New York.

“In a stunning turnaround, John McCain has turned a 33-point deficit with Republican voters in December into a 12-point lead over Rudy Giuliani today,” said Steven Greenberg, Siena New York Poll spokesman. “While America’s mayor still has strong support among New York City Republicans, he is getting beat by McCain in the suburbs and trounced upstate. Republican women give Rudy a small edge, however, Republican men are behind McCain nearly three-to-one.”

McCain has the support of 36 percent of Republicans, followed by Giuliani at 24 percent, former Governor Mitt Romney at 10 percent, Governor Mike Huckabee at 7 percent, and former Senator Fred Thompson at 6 percent. Seventeen percent of Republicans remain undecided. Giuliani led McCain 48-15 percent on December 10. Giuliani leads McCain in New York City 45-23 percent. McCain leads in the downstate suburbs 39-30 percent and upstate 37-15 percent. Among Republican men, McCain leads 44-16 percent, while Giuliani leads among women 33-28 percent.

[Update via Greg Sargent: a new WNBC/Marist College poll has McCain leading with an even wider margin, with 34 percent to Giuliani’s 19 — a second place tie with Mitt Romney! Even Mike Huckabee gets 15 percent. Yikes.]

They’re also neck-and-neck in neighboring New Jersey.

Weekly Standard blogger “Richelieu” (widely believed to be a pseudonym for Republican strategist Mike Murphy) argues rather persuasively that “strategy” is often an after-the-fact justification for having lost.

While it is true that Rudy has stopped trying to compete in some early states, I think it was – like the case of Mike Huckabee in Michigan – a choice forced on the campaign late in the game by failure and pending defeat, not a move dictated by an actual strategy. Rudy originally planned to compete in both Michigan – where he recruited leadership (such as top Macomb county boss Rep. Candace Miller), proclaimed support, and did early campaigning. Rudy planned to compete in NH, where he did more campaign events over time than John McCain and spent millions of dollars on television. Rudy spent significant early money trying to get support in the Iowa caucus, at one point matching Mitt Romney in field staff. Fred Thompson started out with a plan to use the Internet and a late start to sweep the field, campaigned in Iowa and New Hampshire, and was eventually forced to retreat to South Carolina.

Regardless, Giuliani’s team did ultimately decide to shift all their effort to Florida rather than compete for second or third in some of the early primaries. Whether one calls it “strategy” or something else, that decision seems to have cost him.

Because of the horserace frenzy with which the media cover campaigns, we’re left with the mistaken sense that the race is halfway over and that some candidates are way ahead in the race to the nomination. This soon becomes self-fulfilling prophecy, though, as voters write off their previous favorites and switch their allegiance to candidates they perceive as possible winners.

McCain and Romney now have huge momentum while Giuliani is playing catch-up. That the nominee will need 1191 delegates and that Romney has only 72 and McCain a mere 38 doesn’t matter psychologically.

As Steven Taylor notes, Giuliani’s numbers in Florida are crashing. If McCain or Romney win Florida, even narrowly, then it’s going to be very difficult for people to bet on Giuliani on February 5th. People will likely decide that it’s a two-man race and pick one of the possible winners rather than “wasting” their vote on Giuliani.

Of course, if his does manage to win Florida, his “strategists” will be hailed as geniuses for the next five days and he becomes a serious player again.

Photo credit: Tom Kirkendell via Google.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.