Thompson vs. Giuliani: Can the tortoise conquer the hare again?
By J.B. Williams
Rudy Giuliani left the gate early, sprinting towards the finish line off in a distance. Fred Thompson waited, plotted and planned, leaving the gate last, well behind all others in the race, seeming completely unconcerned with the dashing hare, as he methodically set one foot firmly ahead of the other.
Is it the tortoise and the hare all over again?
Both candidates are a bit long-in-the-tooth. Both have fought and conquered cancer. Both have been qualified leaders within their party. Both have strong base support and both have the capacity to be a good executive.
But each has a different strategy for winning the hearts and minds of the people, within their party and beyond, and only time will tell which strategy is best. They are clearly different people with different personalities and their own styles. This is a bad thing?
The first difference
While every candidate in every election claims to be "the people's candidate," the fact is, only one candidate in the entire 2008 field of candidates was drafted by "the people."
Some seek to downplay the importance of this reality. In fact, all other candidates hope to draw attention away from this very real fact, nobody more than the alleged "front-runners."
It's no secret that Thompson was not planning on running for president in 2008 or ever for that matter. Our nation's first president had a similar story. Thompson was perfectly content to live his very comfortable life as an actor, new father and advisor to other national leaders. Only "the people" could have changed his life direction and they did.
All other candidates seek the office of president for their own reasons, on their own personal motives and with their own agendas in mind. Thompson seeks the office at the request of "the people" on the basis of their agenda. As a result, he will run this race very differently.
Career politicians have come to believe that "the people" can be and must be bought. They believe that they, the government and its leadership, are the answer to every question, the solution to every problem. They believe that buying votes is the shortcut to personal political power and that the people have not noticed the consequences of that practice.
Thompson believes that government is the problem and that the people are the only solution. Sound familiar?
Therefore, the standard circus style "used car salesmen" pandering we are accustomed to from career politicos is notably missing from Thompson's campaign. This alone causes many to wonder just how serious Thompson is about his run for the White House. But how serious are Americans taking the circus stunt pandering from the others?
The hare left the starting line early and jumped into an early lead. Almost a year away from the finish line, the hare still leads. But he's showing signs of vulnerability.
As of third quarter reporting, Giuliani has spent more than $30.6 million to gain his first place position in the polls. He has raised over $47 million since the beginning of his campaign, but only $11.6 million of it in the third quarter. He has spent almost three-quarters of his war chest already.
Only Mitt Romney has spent more, a reported $53.6 million, $17.4 million from his own pocket. Sprinting can be very expensive in modern politics. The Romney campaign is already bankrupt with only $9.2 million on-hand and $17.3 million in debts. How "conservative" is that?
The third quarter was Thompson's first fund raising period. He didn't officially announce his candidacy until half way through that quarter. Yet his campaign still reported raising $12.8 million, second only to Romney who dipped into his own pocket to remain out front in funds raised, and $1.2 million more than Giuliani during the same reporting period.
While the hare spent $2 million more than he raised in the third quarter, the tortoise spent less than half of what he raised during the period. Maybe there should be a squirrel in this story too.
The hare is running first in most polls while the tortoise is running second. The hare has spent more than $30.6 million to get there, while the tortoise has spent less than $6 million to run second. Which is the "conservative" approach?
The Republican "top tier"
While the polls are still very fluid concerning a likely GOP nominee, all national polling data indicates that there are indeed only four "top tier" candidates in the race.
Giuliani remains the leader in almost all national polls. In most national polls, Thompson is running second, though in some cases, sharing second with the other two top tier candidates, Romney and McCain.
Mike Huckabee has made some recent headway in some local polls. But it does not seem to be translating to national support.
Iowa and New Hampshire
Republicans started using "straw polls" to gauge voter intent in 1980. Like Romney in 2007, George H.W. Bush campaigned heavy in Iowa in 1980 and defeated Ronald Reagan in Iowa as a result. Of course, he later went on to lose the party nomination and the presidency to Reagan.
Likewise in 2004, straw polls showed Dick Gephardt and Howard Dean tied for the lead with both Kerry and Edwards running far behind. But when the ballots were counted, John Kerry finished first, Edwards second, and Dean and Gephardt were so far back in the field that both dropped out of the race soon after.
In 2000, McCain defeated George W. Bush in New Hampshire. Gore defeated Bush by a half million votes in the general election. Of course, Bush went on to become president. Nothing is as predictable as some pretend.
The Sport of Politics
Though there is no more serious business than the running of our country, we tend to treat the process like a sport instead. This is certainly true among partisan campaign operatives and pundits.
While many claim to have a crystal ball providing glimpses into the future outcome of an always fluid democratic process, nobody really does.
Those who think it's good to be the hare should experience first hand what it's like to be a political "front-runner," the bull's-eye in everyone's crosshairs. Just ask Howard Dean, Hillary Clinton or Rudy Giuliani.
Can the Tortoise Conquer the Hare Again?
Only time will tell how the race ends. But the tortoise doesn't look nervous yet and I can't say the same for the hare…
© 2007 J.B. Williams
Get weekly updates about new issues of ESR!