Giuliani's Low-Key Strategy

When Rudy Giuliani announced that he was running for president in November 2006, Jerry Kapetanakis thought America's Mayor was going to be his man in the White House.

Fast-forward one year and two months later, and Kapetanakis finds himself at a Giuliani town hall meeting in his hometown of Derry, N.H. It's the night before the primary election, and Giuliani has just finished a doozy of a stump speech: tax cuts, 9/11 and that pesky New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton. If it hadn't been for one overly vocal pro-lifer—who was discreetly but forcefully ushered out of the building by Giuliani's beefy security detail—the event would have gone off without a hitch.

Kapetanakis had made up his mind. He knew exactly who he was voting for: former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney.

It wasn't Monday night's meeting that changed Kapatanakis's mind. He'd settled on Romney a while earlier, in part because he felt Giuliani, who has been conspicuously inconspicuous in New Hampshire, had snubbed his home state.

"It's definitely a little bit of a turn-off," said Kapetanakis. "I think it's important for the candidates to come here and put in the hours. You can't buy an election in New Hampshire. You have to earn your stripes."

Giuliani has shelled out $2.5 million for New Hampshire campaign ads and, according to his press secretary Maria Comella, spent 41 days campaigning around the state. Those numbers put Giuliani slightly behind New Hampshire front runner John McCain, who has spent $4 million on campaign ads and logged 46 days on the campaign trail New Hampshire.

But Giuliani's daily schedule has been consistently less vigorous. This is partially due to an illness that at one point forced the campaign to turn its plane around in midair to drop Giuliani off at a St. Louis hospital. Giuliani attends fewer events than McCain, and his late-afternoon/evening appearances are often listed—even on the morning of—as "TBA." Giuliani also grants significantly less press access. Reporters following McCain complain that they can't shut the senator up, while those who trail Giuliani say he is nearly impossible to nail down. Of course, Giuliani has a long history of keeping the media at arm's length, notably during his tenure as mayor of New York. But having blown off Iowa and ceded the headlines to rivals Mike Huckabee, McCain and Romney, Giuliani arguably needs all the free press he can get.

Chris Henick, a former deputy to Karl Rove who now serves as a senior Giuliani adviser, says, "We've dug our ditch, and we're going to live in it and thrive in it." Henick views New Hampshire as a more or less lost cause. Michigan, California and Florida, on the other hand, are a different story—especially Florida, which the Giuliani camp is counting on to jump-start his momentum heading into Super-Duper Tuesday, Feb. 5.

"There's one player in baseball who squats outside of the diamond, and that's the catcher. [When the smaller primaries are over] and all the players all run out, we're already at the plate," says Henick, referring to prize states like Florida.

Meanwhile, in New Hampshire, CNN's last preprimary poll put Giuliani a distant third, with 14 percent. McCain and Romney polled 31 and 26 percent, respectively.

Given Giuliani's embarrassing sixth-place Iowa finish, one might expect the campaign to be worried about its lackluster New Hampshire numbers. But Giuliani's New Hampshire state chairman, Wayne Semprini, says, "We'd love to come in second or first, but considering the amount of time and money that the other candidates have spent here, given those perameters … [we're] going for third place."

Semprini says that despite having sunk nearly a million dollars and 41 days in the state, the Giuliani campaign never had high expectations for New Hampshire. "We knew there would be serious challenges here before the mayor even got into the race," he says. He's referring to the fact that Romney governed Massusetts, right next door, and maintains a vacation home in the Granite State—not to mention McCain, who won the New Hampshire primary in 2000 and has managed to maintain warm contacts across the state. "We recognized from the beginning that we would be swimming upstream with those two candidates," said Semprini.

Giuliani himself has said that he is banking on big states like Florida and California. New Hampshire and Iowa are not, he would argue, kingmakers after all. More like small potatoes.
After placing sixth in the Iowa caucuses, Giuliani told reporters in Bedford, N.H., that "this is the strategy that we selected pretty close to day one. No insult to Iowa at all, but we see this as a different kind of election, a different primary election."

Maybe, but that strategy is costing him with people like Kapetanakis. At the Derry town hall Monday night, Kapetanakis said he "[doesn't] like the fact that Giuliani is just going for the big-ticket states." It's a move, he believes, that proves "Giulani is trying to buy the election" by eschewing retail politics.

Paul Thorington, who also attended Monday night's town hall, echoes Kapetanakis's sentiments. "I think a lot of people here perceive that [Giuliani] is saving his energy for later down the line," says Thorington. "I can see how that would be a turn-off [for some voters]." Thorington, who had never seen Giuliani in person before Monday night and says he attended the town hall for the "celebrity factor," talked about the importance of retail politics in New Hampshire. He selected his own candidate of choice—John McCain—only after seeing him speak in person.

Even Kapetanakis, a Romney supporter, thinks Giuliani should have used McCain as his New Hampshire model. "I think Giuliani needed to act more like McCain and do a lot of town halls. He needed to meet more voters to win us over, and he didn't."