Campaigning, like governing, is a form of salesmanship. Among those who are trying to close the deal this week (or at least get buyers to pay attention): President Bush (offering up a repackaged argument for an unpopular war); Rudolph Giuliani and Mitt Romney (newer and redder than you remember!); Barack Obama (now with 50 percent more experience!); and John Edwards (angrier and more aggressive than in 2004!).
Second prize is not a set of steak knives. And maybe the two GOP frontrunners deserve each other -- and the scrutiny they're getting on the trail. They're a pair of blue-staters who governed as moderates before running for president as deep-red conservatives. Abortion, guns, gay rights, immigration -- it's lovely terrain for a Republican in the remaking.
Giuliani, R-N.Y., is under attack from different rivals on immigration and gun control. Both issues cut to the heart of his time as mayor of New York -- and neither leaves Rudy offering particularly comfortable explanations. "His performance as mayor is now being turned against him as two of his opponents have begun challenging him on two of the biggest issues in the Republican primary," writes The New York Times' Michael Luo. "The criticism of Mr. Giuliani is not surprising given his continued dominance in national polls and the perception among Republicans that he is vulnerable on a host of issues. But it is only now that other candidates have begun engaging him directly."
And former governor Romney, R-Mass., is seeing his abortion record reexamined after telling an interviewer in Nevada this week that he would "let states make their own decision in this regard." Two weeks ago, he told ABC's George Stephanopoulos that he supports a constitutional amendment that would ban abortion nationwide -- a provision that would take away states' leeway, ABC's Teddy Davis reports. The Romney camp says the views aren't contradictory: "We should aspire to passing a Human Life Amendment when the country as a whole is prepared for it," said Romney spokesman Kevin Madden.
This is what Romney gets for crafting a new abortion position in time for his presidential race, writes Michael Shear of The Washington Post. "The two very different statements reflect the challenge for Romney, who has reinvented himself as a champion of the antiabortion movement in recent years and is seeking to become the conservative alternative to former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani in the battle for the Republican presidential nomination," Shear writes. "Critics, including his GOP rivals, have questioned his commitment to the antiabortion cause. . . . As a result, his comments on the subject are parsed carefully."
The biggest sales job is being attempted by President Bush, who kicked off his latest effort to sell the war yesterday. (If you're looking for omens, how about his Texas Rangers knocking home 30 -- yes, three-zero -- against the Baltimore Orioles, just maybe the team of the Washington establishment.)
There may be only so many ways to reframe an old picture -- and buyers are growing sick of the old faces in the sales force -- but he has 535 customers who would prefer winning to losing (and a $15 million ad budget to boot.)