In his article "Two parties, two types of nominees, two paths to winning a presidential nomination, 1972-2004," author Jason D. Berggren writes, "Since 1972, the story of who wins a party's presidential nomination has not had one simple storyline: The early front-runner wins. Instead, there appears to be two: Early Republican front-runners easily become the nominee; Democratic nominees struggle early and emerge late. Or, it may be said: Certainty is to Republican front-runners what change is to Democratic front-runners."
Nomination scholar William G. Mayer told Berggren, "When the ride finally ends, we usually wind up exactly where we started out," with the front-runner winning the nomination.
Well, Rudy Giuliani was the early front-runner for the nomination, and he's out of the race. John McCain's candidacy was given up for dead, and he's now the front-runner.
Karl Rove writes in today's Wall Street Journal that some of the old nomination rules still apply, but that there are a few new ones:
Winning primaries gives no bounce. Rove writes, "John McCain won New Hampshire this year. Yet his bounce was gone seven days later . . . In 2008, winning a primary gives a candidate only a small bounce that lasts a limited time."
TV ads? Puh-leeze. Rove says they don't matter. The TV ad man has been replaced by the communications director. "People . . . form opinions that are difficult to alter by early and voluminous advertising," he writes. Plus, the popularity of YouTube, and the multiple news cycle days created by 24-hour cable news mean TV ads can't keep up. It's too expensive.
A Web of money. Direct mail that arrives 10 days after a primary win or other good news for a candidate is out. The Internet lets candidate raise money now.
Debates replacing money, endorsements. Can anyone say "Mike Huckabee?"
Of course, he lost in Iowa, so some of the old rules apply, writes Rove. They are:
No nomination on a niche. "In each party, the winner will be the person who can draw support from the greatest number of diverse elements within the party."
Adapt or lose. John McCain was broke and polling low . . . and may not have been running the kind of campaign he wanted to. Defections and a lack of funds may have pushed "McCain back into a lean, guerrilla-style campaign," writes Rove.
Exit polls still stink. In New Hampshire, press stories on the McCain victory were written while he was beating Romney by 7 percent-10 percent according to exit polls. McCain only won by 5 percent, but the damage was done.
Win early, stay strong. Can anyone say, "Rudy Giuliani?"
Money doesn't trump appeal. "Neither Mr. McCain's financial strength last spring nor Mr. Romney's large personal wealth nor Congressman Ron Paul's record-breaking Internet fundraising blitzes have guaranteed victory."
In closing, Rove writes: "The candidates who emerge victorious, while they may be imperfect, have admirable grit and gumption. And that should matter for something."
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