In eight days, the Florida primary will either a) bring new life to Rudy Giuliani’s dying campaign, b) become a crucial victory in John McCain’s now-relentless march to the nomination, or c) muddy the muddiest political picture in the GOP’s history still further by handing an unexpected win to Mitt Romney or even Mike Huckabee.
Choices A and B are antagonisms. Giuliani can only win Florida by doing exceptionally well among voters who might otherwise choose McCain. The reverse is true as well. McCain’s rise has been fueled state by state and nationally by the energy that has drained out of the Giuliani candidacy. That needs to continue in Florida.
The candidates and candidacies are going to have to go after each other. For the most part, during this very long year, they have refused to do so. They are fond of each other and they agree with each other on a host of issues. But that was then and this is now. This morning, over e-mail, came a blast from Giuliani’s press shop:
JOHN MCCAIN: NOT A FI$CAL CONSERVATIVE
“Rudy Giuliani is the only fiscal conservative in the race and it’s easy to see why. John McCain not only voted with the Democrats against the Bush tax cuts twice, he’s voted over 50 times for higher taxes. With a record like that, you can’t tell if John McCain will stand up to the Democrats in Washington who want to raise taxes or stand with them.” — Katie Levinson, Rudy Giuliani Communications Director
The document featured chapter and verse on McCain’s negative votes on tax cuts and his characterization of the Bush 2001 plan as coming at the expense of middle-class Americans.
The logic of the McCain and Giuliani candidacies has always pretty much been the same — a strong leader in the War on Terror who is able to secure the votes of independents. But with Giuliani’s political life on the line, he has no choice but to try to uncouple McCain’s recent converts from the Arizona Republican and send them back Rudy’s way. And McCain will have no choice but to respond — and given the aggressive tone of the Giuliani hit this morning, McCain will surely give as good as he got.
Thus do political friendships collide with political reality.