John, Rudy’s tactics were completely wrong, of course. He didn’t finish off John McCain when McCain was down by raiding his staff and finance team: absolutely true. As you say, the stories about his wife and Bernie Kerik dried up his late fall steam. True, true. Some will argue that the pro-choice/control issues killed him, but a year of positive polling for him suggests otherwise.
I think the problem lay elsewhere. As an early Rudy supporter, I felt I was always waiting for a big speech, a few new ideas — something that could set the agenda for the post-Bush GOP. That never came. Instead, as just heard Bill Kristol say, this was a very backwards-looking campaign. Take a look
at this ad he was running in Florida:
He talks about a return to the values of Ronald Reagan and fighting against
Islamic terrorism. The rest of the spot is a bio ad, focused largely on what he did as mayor — more than a decade ago! I think Rudy really was closer to Reagan’s brand of optimistic conservatism than anyone else in the race. But it so often seemed irrelevant to the race and to the times. Rudy’s failed candidacy is the best evidence that the party needs a post-Reagan message.