December 30, 2007

Who Knew Rudy Would Be Mr. Sunshine?

With the races in Iowa and New Hampshire ending up in dead heats with less than a week to go before the start of the 2008 primaries, the tone has descended to at least cranky. Mitt Romney has gone on the attack against John McCain and Mike Huckabee, while both candidates have returned the favor. Rudy Giuliani, with his big-state strategy, has managed to stay above the fray:

Largely out of the political debate in Iowa and New Hampshire, Republican Rudy Giuliani tried to turn the bickering among his presidential rivals to his advantage, arguing that voters appreciate candidates who stay positive.

"We're not involved in the back and forth about criticism of each other," the former New York mayor said Sunday in Plymouth after speaking at a town hall meeting in this college town. "I kind of like that; I'd rather not do that. I don't think that's the best way to win a Republican primary. I think you're better off emphasizing what you do, what you can do, what you believe."

He cast himself as the most experienced candidate in the field, noting that beside being mayor during the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, he also was an assistant attorney general in the Reagan administration and the U.S. attorney for the southern district of New York.

When a woman at the Mount Washington Hotel told Giuliani the last time she saw him was when he was campaigning for rival Mitt Romney during the 2002 Massachusetts gubernatorial race, the former mayor laughed and said, "Mitt Romney is a friend. I consider him a friend. I think he's a very good man and I think he's a very worthy candidate. I just happen to think I'm a better candidate, and I would be better at being president."

When the race started, everyone expected Rudy to become the attack dog in the race. He has a no-prisoners attitude at most times, and of course the hard-knock politics of New York City has given him a very thick skin. In fact, one of the negatives about Rudy has been the impression that he can get flinty, as he did with Romney in the YouTube debate over immigration.

The odd dynamic of Iowa and New Hampshire has given Rudy an opportunity to take a different angle on the race. No one's wasting any motion attacking Rudy at the moment as all of them need wins in races Rudy has skipped. That leaves Rudy as a national frontrunner who has received almost no criticism from his opponents in the last four weeks.

Now Rudy can act presidential, rising above the petty bickering that has erupted among the three other Republican candidates. He began today, probably surprised at the opening the tight primary fights in the first two states have provided. He can act like everyone's friend, building goodwill among voters while the others sharpen their tongues and their teeth.

Rudy, The Nice Guy. Who'd have guessed?


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