The Political "Brief"
Giuliani out...so is Edwards?!, FL crowns a Republican & possibly Hillary; Who is Governor Sebelius?
With his poll numbers folding faster than the French army, Rudy Giuliani is set to announce his is bowing out of the race for the President...but not Vice-President. He will endorse John McCain, another atypical Republican, and this will lead to a further view of the "Mac" as inevitable nominee. The former mayor of NYC had a great run-up to his swift collapse. Over much of 2007, he was seen as the frontrunner, or at least tied with McCain until the latter's campaign imploded. With Romney and Huckabee still ramping up their efforts and Thompson undecided, Giuliani enjoyed a summer and early fall at the head of the pack. All that came to an end when serious campaigning started in the primary states and it became apparent Rudy wasn't sustaining in the face of stronger competition.
He withdrew, essentially, from all but the Florida primary saying he would win there, and in doing so, begin the serious part of his campaign. Huckabee took Iowa, McCain New Hampshire and South Carolina, Romney Michigan, Nevada and Wyoming - Rudy was no longer seen as viable with these new poll leaders. While he may still play a part in McCain's campaign - and possible presidency, should that happen - it is certain that he's the first major withdrawal from the primary season. The Republican contest has ratcheted up a notch.
More surprising that Giuliani's rise and then utter collapse is the exit of John Edwards after his third place showing in Flordia, a popularity contest in the absence of any delegates (remember? Early schedule = punishment (stripped delegates)). What did we find out? Edwards really isn't all that popular. No matter how much Hillarious and Obama snipe at each other - directly or through proxy - Edwards just didn't get the boost he needed, the footing, to place himself even with them in the polls. It could be his policy ideas, which fly in the face of his Senatorial voting record and his millionaire status, or the appeal of the "new" and ground-breaking (first black, first woman). Whatever the reasons you bandy about, he just didn't resonate with enough voters, didn't raise enough money and can't compete with the Obama and Clinton celebrity machines.
I doubt he's now in it for the VP, maybe cabinet or another shot in Congress. He might try to become an Al Gore, championing a cause across party lines, raising awareness of poverty ("We live in two Americas...where some people pay others to make them lattes, and some have to make their own..."). He will participate in Habitat for Humanity for a while in New Orleans. He doesn't have enough delegates to be a kingmaker, unless it is so close in August that his several dozen will make a difference.
There was no endorsement from Mr. Edwards, but both his rivals praised him for bringing the struggle of many Americans to rise out of poverty to the fore of political discussion. His wife's health (her breast cancer returned last year) was not cited as a reason, as she campaigned just as hard as he did.
The Republican nomination is not locked. However, there is a clear leader in the diminished pack. John McCain won with 36% of the vote to Mitt Romney's 31%. Rudy Giuliani trailed in third with 14.6% and close behind was Mike Huckabee at 13.5%. Ron Paul (3%) and Fred Thompson ( 1%, though he's out of the race) rounded it off. With a solid win in a state more diverse than Iowa or New Hampshire, McCain proves he has a broad appeal to Republican votes. And that last part, he hammered home: this was a closed primary, Republicans only, and he finally won without independent help. Granted, the conservative wing still sided with Romney and Huckabee, but not all.
Of course, this was the apocalypse Giuliani feared, and he's out. Huckabee will stay and run with no money, hoping for a delegate - and press - boost after Super Tuesday and the Southern contingent cast some votes his way. I heard it said last night that he's hoping whoever wins will forgive his war debts, as it were, and he's playing nice with Mitt and Johnny Mac to get some of their eventual cash. Paul is still Paul, and you can't trust a guy with two first names, right? Not exactly, as he still holds a hardcore group of supporters scattered nationwide who hope to make a dent in things Feb. 5th.
Romney has several hundred million (MM) dollars. Let that sink in. He has also spent $40MM of his own loot in the election so far. Let that sink in even more. Insiders say he's willing to dump another $20MM in, 'cause he's in it to win it (...or buy it). Like Paul with isolationists, like Huckabee with evangelicals, Romney appeals to the fiscal conservative, a strata of voter that cuts across many other factions of the party. Hundreds of delegates are up for grabs next Tuesday, and many will go to McCain. But Romney is no also-ran, but still a major contender.
A personal aside on Romney: he is the wrong candidate to run against a woman or a black man. He is too white bread without anything to offset his own whiteness. McCain at least has military service and bi-partisan legislation to fall back on. Mitt's religion though black people were smart monkeys - not people - until the 70s. Elect him, and you choose the unelectable and defeat.
Hillary won the popularity contest in FL with 50% to Obama's 33% and Edwards' 14%. Them's big margins. But she has to soldier on through Super Tuesday, when 22 states will apportion their delegates commensurate with the raw numbers - no winner-take-all. Given his level of support and the famous people that like him, Obama is not out and could chomp away at Clinton's national numbers (she leads him by double-digits among Democrats as their choice for nominee) this week and come out of Feb. 5th with enough delegates - and maybe a few wins - to really get things cracking. Brokered convention! I say it again!
Mike Gravel has still not dropped out.
There will be a "special update" later this next week on two-term Kansas (D) Governor Kathleen Sebelius, and what she might mean for Obama's chances.