Romney was the only GOP contender in New Hampshire on Labor Day, and two of his main opponents, the undeclared Thompson and former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, did not hold any events yesterday. At a news conference before the parade, Romney could not resist a few jabs at Thompson. “Why the hurry? Why not take a little longer?” he said when asked about Thompson starting his official campaign after months on the sidelines. On Thompson’s decision to skip a GOP debate in New Hampshire tomorrow and instead appear on late-night television, Romney added, “I think it will boost the ratings of the Jay Leno show, but I would rather be doing well in New Hampshire.”
Most of Romney’s attacks, though, were not aimed at his Republican rivals. While the Democrats are increasingly beating up on one another and President Bush, the Republican candidates are unified: They cannot bash Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) enough. Noting Clinton’s repeated use of the word “change” in her recent speeches, Romney had a rejoinder he repeated over and over. “Hillary Clinton would bring change, but it would be a sharp left turn.”
Hillary is running as hard as is possible, and she won’t be beaten from the couch on the set of the Tonight Show. It will take an extraordinary effort ot hold on to Colorado, Ohio and Virginia, and the candidate who shows the GOP that they can sustain the energy necessary to practically live in those three states as well as the four of the upper midwest –Michigan, Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota– is the candidate with the best chance to turn back the Clintons and their hordes from the lefty steppes. The big seven won’t be won with television ads, but by sustained efforts involving hundreds of events over the next 14 months. Rudy shows the same sort of energy as Romney on most occasions, the sort of energy which is absolutely necessary to counter the Clinton push, but laid back Fred? Skipping tomorrow night’s FOX debate is just another indication that Team Thompson hasn’t figured out the dynamics of ’07-’08 yet. Running a Rose Garden campaign when you don’t own the Rose Garden is a sure way to signal an indifference to the realities of the long campaign ahead, and naivete about the Clintons.