Faulty Strategy For Giuliani And Wrong Timing For Edwards

This story was written by Shawn Gude, The Daily Iowan
Men with opposite campaign strategies in disparate parties chose the same solution Wednesday as Democratic former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards and Republican former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani dropped out of the presidential race.

UI political science Associate Professor Cary Covington pointed out the differences, asserting that Edwards' campaign - although it ultimately failed - ran a smarter one that competed in early states.

Giuliani, he said, was a different story.

"Giuliani ignored clear evidence of at least the past 30 years of presidential-nomination contests and decided not to compete at the beginning, and, rather, to wait for a state where he thought he would do well," Covington said.

Giuliani, who campaigned lightly in early states like Iowa, decided to devote much of his time to campaigning in Florida.

But his strategy failed when he came in third in the state's Jan. 29 primary.

Greg Baker, the president of the UI College Republicans, agreed with Covington's assessment, arguing that Giuliani's main mistake was leaving Iowa too soon. The prominent Republican said the former mayor still had a chance after betting on a Florida win, but it was a "very risky" strategy.

It was that strategy, not Giuliani's strong national security talking point that ultimately finished him off, Covington said.

"His message was pretty narrow, but so was his basis of appeal," Covington said. "He didn't have a lot going for him besides the argument that he was strong on national security ... So he was playing to his strength."

The Giuliani loss especially hurt for UI student Sarah Milani, who campaigned for him in Iowa, then went to the Sunshine State for three days to continue campaigning for the former mayor.

The loss came as a surprise, as well.

"He had a great following in Florida," said Milani, who said it was the right time for her candidate drop out after the third place finish. "It was nothing like Iowa."

On the opposing side, Covington said Edwards' campaign wasn't poorly-run or executed.

The only problem? The two other front-runners in the race: New York Sen. Hillary Clinton and Illinois Sen. Barack Obama.

"I think Edwards was just squeezed by two very good candidates," Covington said. "I don't think he did anything wrong, but he clearly had an uphill fight forever and always to win the nomination."

Edwards' strategy was to concentrate his resources on early states that he could win, Covington said, following a strategy not unlike the one President Jimmy Carter ran about 30 years ago.

The UI professor also said Edwards' populist message wasn't detrimental to his candidacy.

"I think it got consumed by larger, optimistic calls for change," Covington said. "It became kind of a variant of that [change message], rather than a clear alternative."

UI student Mike Juntunen, president of Hawkeyes for Edwards, saw one main problem with his candidate's campaign: not enough money.

Without funds, Juntunen said, fewer staffers can be employed, less ads can be run and media attention is harder to attract. Also, Juntunen said, it hurt that Edwards didn't look like the candidate of change.

"We weren't the minority, and we weren't the woman - and there's nothing wrong with that," Juntunen said. "But it made it very hard to break into the discourse."

Giuliani and Edwards' departures from their party's nomination races could also have further implications for the ongoing race. Giuliani endorsed Arizona Sen. John McCain, a move that Baker thinks will greatly aid McCain, especially in key states like New York and California.

UI Democrats President Atul Nakhasi said he could see Edwards endorsin Obama, but there's also a possibility Edwards could stay out completely.

"It's fun to speculate," he said. "It's so hard to call, though."

E-mail *DI* reporter Shawn Gude:shawn-gude@uiowa.edu
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