An interesting NY Times piece today by Michael Cooper highlights the camapign's distorting the Giuliani fiscal record as NYC mayor (so that he doesn't have to rely solely on his dismal WTC health record).
Rudolph W. Giuliani has been broadcasting radio advertisements in Iowa and other states far from the city he once led stating that as mayor of New York, he "turned a $2.3 billion deficit into a multibillion dollar surplus."
The assertion, which Mr. Giuliani has repeated on the trail as he has promoted his fiscal conservatism, is somewhat misleading, independent fiscal monitors said. In fact, Mr. Giuliani left his successor, Michael R. Bloomberg, with a bigger deficit than the one Mr. Giuliani had to deal with when he arrived in 1994. And that deficit would have been large even if the city had not been attacked on Sept. 11, 2001.
"He inherited a gap, and he left a gap for his successor," Ronnie Lowenstein, the director of the city’s Independent Budget Office, a nonpartisan agency that monitors the city budget, said of Mr. Giuliani. "The city was budgeting as though the good times were not going to end, but sooner or later they always do."
Given the advanced start to the 2008 presidential campaigns, one of the uncertainties hanging over the process has been the degree to which voter preferences for the Democratic and Republican nominations might change as some of the candidates inevitably become more familiar to the public. Do the early frontrunners have a greater chance of being overtaken than early frontrunners in previous elections?
The bottom line is this, as summarized by pollster. com:
Saad's analysis is well worth reading in full, but here is the gist: Slightly less than half (46%) of Republican's nationally know Rudy Giuliani, John McCain, Mitt Romney and Fred Thompson well enough to rate all four. Among these voters, Giuliani trails Fred Thompson by eight points (33% to 25%). Giuliani's double digit national lead in Gallup's polling comes entirely from the 54% of Republicans who are unfamiliar with one of the top four candidates (bolded mine)...
Among Democrats, the pattern is different. Less than one in four Democrats (23%) is not yet familiar with each of the three best known candidates, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards. While Clinton holds a very wide lead over Barack Obama (53% to 17%) among those who are unfamiliar with one of the candidates, she still leads by a comfortable 13 point margin (43% to 30%) with Edwards finishing a distant third (with 13%) even among those who know all three candidates.
Even as Obama and Edwards build their name identification among Democrats, it would appear unlikely that this increasing public familiarity with Clinton's rivals alone would upset her lead...
On the other hand:
Giuliani is at greater risk than Clinton of losing support as the campaign progresses and his opponents become better known.
Results from other polls, particularly the recent up-tick in Clinton's national totals, support the conclusion that Clinton's lead depends on more than mere name ID.
I'll leave the Dem field alone for now; the point about it is that the Dem field is not merely a mirror image of the R field in terms of positioning. For Rudy, things are early. He's benefited from McCain's meltdown, and Thompson's too-late entry, but most of the voters outside of NYC still don't know him, they only know his name and image. To bolster that image, Rudy's hired these folks:
Presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani rolled out his media team yesterday, including a firm that produced an ad for a Senate contest last year that was criticized as racially exploitative.
Heath Thompson's Dallas-based firm, Scott Howell & Co., produced an attack ad for the Republican National Committee against Harold Ford, a black Democrat running in Tennessee.
The spot included a bubbly blond white woman who chirped, "I met Harold at the Playboy party." At the end, she winked into the camera and said, "Harold, call me." The NAACP said the ad exploited racial biases. Ford lost the race.
The company also made ads that helped President Bush win the 2000 South Carolina primary.
You might think this is aimed at South Carolina, and not Iowa or the rest of the country. Still, as Gallup notes:
According to Gallup's analysis of the relationship between candidate familiarity and vote choice over the past three polls, Giuliani is the clear favorite among Republicans who are not familiar with all of the other candidates in the field. He leads this group with 38% of the vote, compared with 18% for McCain, 12% for Thompson, and only 6% for Romney. However, among the slightly smaller group of Republicans who are familiar with all four candidates, the leader is Thompson with 33%. Giuliani ranks second with 25%, followed by Romney and then McCain.
Given the numbers, and the fact that non-political junkies are still tuning out politics at this early date, Rudy just might be thinking about defining his opponents, and not just defining himself. For Rudy, and for his new ad agency, it wouldn't be out of character.