Kate, no question that Rudy could go the way of Howard Dean — that he could lead the polls before the electoral season and then melt down. But it’s worth remembering that Dean didn’t just fade, and he didn’t see his numbers decline because of attacks from other campaigns. Dean blew himself up. The first indication of the self-destruction was his performance in the last Iowa debate in early January 2004, when he was still in the lead — he was nasty, churlish, unpleasant to others and cranky. It was a disaster, perhaps the worst debate performance by a leader I’ve ever seen. And when Kerry then surged and surpassed him in the caucuses, he went out and delivered the scream heard ‘round the world, which turned him into a laughingstock and effectively put paid to the campaign.
If Rudy is analoguous to Howard Dean, therefore, he will have to take a major role in his own downfall — and I don’t mean because he has a problematic personal life. I mean that his performance on the campaign trail will have to raise questions about him in the minds of voters.
That may happen. But it also may not, and if I were a competing campaign, I wouldn’t count on Rudy doing their work for them.