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Taking tips from President Giuliani

BY ADAM B SULLIVAN | AUGUST 24, 2011 7:20 AM

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Today’s crop of GOP presidential hopefuls ought to take some cues from President Rudy Giuliani’s political playbook.

It seems as though there’s a new front-runner every month this caucus season. First it was Gov. Tim Pawlenty (by default, of course; he was the only one in the race), then it was Gov. Jon Huntsman (an amazing feat, really, as he now has enough supporters here to fill a State Fair corn-dog stand), and then Rep. Michele Bachmann (y’know, ’cause Iowa is the only state that gets to vote), and now it’s the conservative savior, Gov. Rick Perry (the clear front-runner even before he was included in any polls).

The media pundits, bless their hearts, are doing their journalistic duty to try to pin down who’s going to win the Republican nomination, but these silly voters can’t seem to commit. Don’t they know the 2012 nominating convention is only 369 days away?!

See, back in 2007 and 2008, we didn’t have this problem. “America’s Mayor” formed an exploratory committee in 2006, jumped to the top of the polls right away, and maintained that position until voting started. He carried 80 counties to win Iowa, then went on to dominate in New Hampshire and South Carolina as well. Fred Thompson held on to the end, posting impressive numbers and winning a few states, but Giuliani ultimately won the nomination and edged out a narrow win over Hillary Rodham Clinton in the general election.

Wait.

At this time four years ago, Giuliani was the clear Republican favorite, hovering around 30 percent in polls of GOP primary- and caucus-goers. Thompson — who wasn’t even in the race yet — was the presumed runner-up, polling 4 or 5 points behind Giuliani. Mitt Romney and the real-life eventual nominee, John McCain, were bouncing between 10 and 15 percent and the real-life caucus champ, Mike Huckabee, was lucky to break 5 percent. And then what happened?

Oh yeah, the campaign.

Giuliani (who I donated to and caucused for, by the way) went on to finish second-to-last in Iowa and earned single-digit support in New Hampshire, Michigan, Nevada, and South Carolina.

The reason news outlets love to focus on the horse race is simple: It’s easy, cheap entertainment.

Outside organizations give you free polling data and some schmuck who you can call a “political insider” or “grass-roots organizer” is more than happy to come on your show and talk about his gut feelings toward Rick Perry (who, by the way, isn’t even the most qualified Texan with the initials RP in the race).

We try not to play that game at The Daily Iowan. We don’t write about polls, and we try not to call anyone a front-runner. We don’t even consider Barack Obama the 2012 Democratic nominee because the nominating convention isn’t until next year. When CNN-anointed candidates such as Bachmann or Perry come to town, we cover them. But we also cover Democratic challenger Harry Braun when he comes to town.

The idea behind our coverage strategy isn’t complicated. In fact, it’s been practiced by reasonable journalists for a long time. We consider ourselves public surrogates rather than gatekeepers.

Our job is to give you access to the information we have access to, not to filter out the information that isn’t easy to write about.


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