07 February 2008

Late Lament

In the 2008 Presidential race, nothing compares with Rudy Giuliani’s huge blunder of staking all of his energy on La Gordita- Florida rather than participate in those small but traditionally first contests like New Hampshire and Iowa. Giuliani went from being a front runner to being a has been by being out of the limelight and forsaking momentum for the “safety” of a big state contest with lots of New York transplants. He then thought that he would sweep the NY/NJ/CN races, so he worked with party officials ensure that those states would be winner take all contests. As it panned out, this tactic paved the way for moderate maverick McCain to sweep to success on Super-Duper Tuesday.

In a previous post, I echoed Karl Rove’s observation that McCain made a tactical blunder by spending Super Bowl Sunday in Massachusetts to tweak his then major opponent Mitt Romney rather than concentrate in the South. This tactic only gained a few additional delegates in a proportional primary in Massachusetts instead of being victorious in close winner take all states like Georgia.

Romney was also too clever by half by betting on West Virginia. Romney flew from California to the Mountain State to spend five hours personally canvassing at the West Virginia convention. This personal touch looked to be a promising strategy as Mitt scored 41% in the first round. Then McCain tactically pulled out on the second round of voting to throw the state’s 18 delegates to Mike Huckabee (well Ron Paul finagled 3 delegates out of the deal). That certainly was disappointing, but consider the opportunity cost. California was said to be a close race tilting towards Romney on election day. He could have pressed the flesh on the left coast and motivated the Get Out the Vote operations. To be fair, voters were concentrated at the West Virginia convention and retail politics through earned media is very challenging when polls are actually open in California.

For all failed tactics, the temptation is to shake your head and exclaim “What where they thinking?” But if it worked, observers would either exclaim “Genius!” or smarmily claim “Obviously, this was a good strategy.”

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