The world may be waiting for Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama to announce their candidacies already, but their rivals aren’t. Here’s what you missed on the campaign trail over the holidays—which stretched through yesterday to include a national day of mourning for Gerald Ford:
Rudy Giuliani is looking more presidential every day. This week he, like the man he hopes to succeed, was dealing with a damaging leak of sensitive information. A 140-page internal campaign document was leaked to the Daily News, outlining the challenges for a Giuliani presidential bid, including a formidable fund-raising schedule that will require 250 fund-raisers this year to raise $100 million. The document also considers a list of potential personal hurdles: his messy breakup with his ex-wife, his post-mayoral buck-raking deals, and his nonconservative positions on gun control, gay marriage, and abortion.
One of the problems for Giuliani not listed in the secret memo is that having your campaign documents stolen by rival camps is the kind of childish, annoying crap that happens in a political campaign. Is Rudy ready for a steady diet of annoyance for the next 22 months? Every candidate faces this question, but the wildly popular former mayor will experience the steepest fall from deity to campaign schlub of any of them. Giuliani has lived like a hero for the last several years, based on his actions after the attacks of 9/11. He’s popular and polls well among GOP candidates. The fund raising he did for GOP candidates last cycle was no test of his mettle. It was like a warm sponge bath compared with what he’ll have to endure if he gets in the race. Plenty of people found Giuliani thin-skinned and abrasive as mayor. As if to prove that the memo leak would be the first of a relentless succession of paper cuts, John McCain’s strategist John Weaver tweaked Rudy’s team in their hometown paper. ”I’m surprised that something like that would ever leave the custody of a campaign, and that such raw and frank information would be around the countryside,” Weaver told the New York Times.
Next week, Mitt Romney will host his first fund-raiser. How much money a campaign can raise is one of the early tests of its viability. Romney’s new twist: a nontelevised telethon. As many as 250 money people from around the country, many of them professional fund-raisers, will gather at the Boston Convention Center to dial for dollars. Never before has a candidate tried to infuse the mendicant excess of a fund-raiser with the sizzling glamour of a public-television fund drive. There are not likely to be other creative mash-ups, like a free Big Dig tote bag for high-dollar donors.
Though John McCain has supported the war in Iraq and the president, his political popularity has not plummeted like Bush’s. His opponents are trying to end that gravity-defying feat by linking him to the troop “surge” that Bush is likely to announce next week. On Sunday, Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards denounced the increase, dubbing it the McCain Doctrine. The former North Carolina senator has been apologizing for his vote to authorize the Iraq war and is not going to let any other candidate beat him on opposing Iraq gambits this time. Moveon.org has called for a demonstration Friday outside the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank where McCain will talk about his latest trip to Iraq and make the case for more boots on the ground. The campaign’s official response: “When John McCain votes to take the country to war he thinks it’s important to win that war.”
Iowa and New Hampshire jealously guard their traditional roles as the first caucus and primary states. This year, they’ve been under pressure as the Democratic Party has flirted with the idea of moving Nevada forward in the nominating process. This has apparently caused Iowa tourism officials to go mad. They are considering throwing a nationally televised Hollywood event with “A-list” celebrities like Britney Spears to kick off the 2008 Iowa caucuses. Apparently the American democratic process needs more gold lamé and wobbly acts of public drunkenness.