- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 8, 2008

NASHUA, N.H. — The first two pieces of Rudolph W. Giuliani’s strategic puzzle — survive the first few contests and rally later in delegate-rich states — have fallen into place, and his campaign manager says the other pieces will soon follow.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee carried almost no momentum from his Iowa caucus victory into New Hampshire. The latest polls show his support at about 11 percent, unchanged since early November. Second, voters here are poised to pick their own winner, muddling the race at least until the Jan. 18 South Carolina primary. That would make Florida’s Jan. 29 contest, as well as more than 20 others on Feb. 5, far more decisive.

“We always knew the toughest states were right up front for us,” Giuliani campaign manager Michael DuHaime told The Washington Times yesterday. “It only gets better and better as we go along, when you have states like Florida, California, New Jersey, all big delegate-rich states where the mayor has a very solid base of support.”

Sen. John McCain of Arizona and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney are battling for a crucial win in New Hampshire today to keep their presidential hopes alive. As their campaigning intensifies, Mr. Giuliani’s has remained slow and steady.

Mr. Huckabee is the front-runner for the South Carolina primary, so neither Mr. McCain nor Mr. Romney is expected to gain much momentum from a win here.

Mr. Romney’s campaign yesterday dismissed the Giuliani tactic.

“Their strategy is predicated on hoping and wishing that the February 5th states remain hermetically sealed off somehow from the early primary states,” said spokesman Kevin Madden. “The mayor’s message seems to be, ‘Forget about Republican principles and policies; elect me because I can win the most delegates.’ ”

Mr. DuHaime said the inherent dangers to his candidate’s strategy appear to be muted. “One of the risks in our strategy was that one other candidate would gain a whole lot of momentum, but as it looks now, it looks as if the early primaries will be split among a number of candidates and this race will stay wide open for quite a while,” he said.

The former New York mayor is running fifth in the latest New Hampshire polls, even though the state’s Republican voters tend to be fiscally conservative but socially liberal. Mr. Giuliani, who is pro-choice and supports homosexual rights, has largely abandoned the state since he began faltering in polls here in November. He has been eclipsed by Mr. McCain, who won the state over then-Gov. George W. Bush of Texas in 2000, and Mr. Romney, a former governor of Massachusetts.

“We always knew the difficulties inherent in Iowa and also New Hampshire, with Romney being a neighboring governor and McCain having won” in 2000 over Mr. Bush, Mr. DuHaime said.

The Giuliani camp is looking for big wins on Feb. 5, when more than half the delegates needed to secure the Republican nomination will be chosen. The mayor leads in 16 of 20 of those states. Many, especially in the South, are not winner-take-all, so even a second- or third-place finish will garner delegates.

“We’re in really good shape in a lot of places right now,” Mr. DuHaime said. “The more split-up the early states are, I think the better it is for us. … On February 5, we’re getting a ton of delegates that we know we can count on.”

Before 57 delegates are awarded in Florida’s winner-take-all primary, just 154 delegates — or 6.5 percent of the total — will be decided. In most scenarios, those 154 delegates will be divided among the top three or four candidates, but Mr. Giuliani could surpass them all in a single day.

Mr. Giuliani leads in New York and New Jersey, which can deliver 225 delegates in winner-take-all primaries on Feb. 5, when a total of 1,303 delegates will be decided. California, where the mayor leads by nine points, can hand him another 173 delegates that day.

The mayor took a calculated risk by not campaigning heavily in Iowa and New Hampshire. According to conventional wisdom, candidates build momentum in the early states, just as Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois did after winning the Democratic caucuses in Iowa, moving from a double-digit deficit in New Hampshire to an eight-point lead over Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York.

Meanwhile, national polls show momentum for other candidates. Mr. Giuliani held a double-digit lead for months, but is now tied with Mr. Huckabee and Mr. McCain.

Steve Forbes, a former presidential candidate, said Mr. Giuliani’s strategy can work.

“He recognizes that this is not a sprint, but an intense marathon,” said Mr. Forbes, who appeared with the mayor yesterday at a campaign rally in Hudson, N.H. “He’s got to be prepared to go the whole distance.”

Mr. Forbes, however, dropped out of his presidential race nine days after he was defeated in New Hampshire by Mr. McCain in 2000, 48 percent to 13 percent.

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