Three states and three different winners: Huckabee in Iowa, McCain in New Hampshire and now Romney in Michigan. This was exactly the situation foreseen and desired by Rudy Giuliani’s strategists when they decided to forgo the early states and concentrate only on winner-take-all Florida on January 29 and Tsunami Tuesday on February 5, when the GOP has 21 primaries and caucuses nationwide. If no one had jumped ahead of the pack, Rudy could step forward as the hero of the GOP as he emerged on 9/11 as the hero of New York. The problem with that strategy was apparent Tuesday tonight. Giuliani took 3% of the vote in Michigan. Fred Thompson, whose comatose campaign has had all the energy of a wax museum, took 4% and libertarian wingnut Ron Paul lapped Giuliani with 6%. The most recent national polls tracked Giuliani’s decline from front-runner to third or fourth. What happened? "All politics is local," said Speaker of the House Tip O’Neil. This is what Giuliani’s strategists forgot. (So, too, did Hillary Clinton’s advisors: her double digit lead in national polls also disappeared once actual voters showed they like Barack Obama as much or more than the former first lady.) People in Iowa and New Hampshire and Michigan are not going to vote for someone who does not show up to ask for their votes. For three consecutive weeks, the supporters of Huckabee, McCain and Romney have had a night to taste victory (as well as two nights to explain second and mull the consequences of third). For their supporters and donors, they have seen the Promised Land, even if they have not crossed into it yet. For three consecutive weeks, Giuliani’s supporters have been scratching their heads wondering how America’s hero could come in sixth in a field of seven. This coming Saturday, Giuliani is again likely to be an asterisk in the South Carolina GOP primary. Yesterday we considered the possibility that the February 5 layout could yet benefit Giuliani. But, without Romney’s bottomless pockets, and with no momentum, Giuliani’s campaign is done whether he knows it or not. He may do marginally better in Florida than he did in Michigan. But, this is now a three-person race and John McCain is still the most likely winner of the GOP nod. Michael Sean Winters
Holding Out for a Hero?