A horrible thought. Rudy gave up on the state in mid-December; as of December 12 or so, he and McCain were both pulling around 18%. A week later Giuliani was off 4-5 points and Maverick was in the mid-20s. Which came first, the retreat or the decline? He couldn’t have won the state but a harder — and smarter — retail campaign up to primary day could theoretically have kept him in the high teens instead of the 8.5 percent margin he finished with. Maverick’s margin of victory? Only 5.5 percent. If Romney wins New Hampshire, McCain is done, in much the same way that Huckabee was effectively done after South Carolina. Fred finished him off by sucking away enough social cons there to let McCain squeak through. Giuliani could, quite possibly, have performed the same feat for Romney up north.

That gets you into another counterfactual, i.e. what if South Carolina had been a three-man race between Huck, Mitt, and Fred instead of Huck, Mitt, and McCain? Who would Maverick’s supporters have broken for? Maybe Fred, but maybe in insufficient numbers to prevent Huckabee from winning. In fact, Huck was the second choice of a plurality of voters in a poll taken nine days before the primary, so instead of weeping over McCain this morning we might have been weeping over him. How depressing to think that even the Republican alternate reality sucks this year. It’s like dodging a bullet and stepping directly on a landmine.

That’s not the only parallel between Giuliani and Thompson. The media wants its “fire in the belly” meme and, by god, they shall have it:

“We felt like given the nature of process and the news cycle and primary calendar we needed to be aggressive as far as staying relevant and driving debate,” bemoans one adviser. “And we were unable to. And not just paid, but from an earned [media] perspective. Both efforts [encouraging Giuliani to get aggressive on TV and on the trail] were met with the same kind of response. The comfort level just wasn’t there.”…

“He sure didn’t have any problems setting up contrasts when he was mayor,” a campaign source notes ruefully. “You wonder where the fire in the belly went.”

Alas, it seems the pol Ed Koch famously dubbed the “nasty man” wasn’t nasty enough:

[O]n the trail, he seemed so serene, so resigned, so Zen. He played up his 9/11 heroism, and portrayed himself an international ass-kicker, but he never really looked like he wanted to throttle anyone. He didn’t sound vengeful or bitter or power-starved; he talked about “returning power to you!” Who would have thought Rudy would be the gentleman reminding voters that he’s run a positive campaign, declaring that he’s “sick and tired of all the name-calling”?

It was hard to watch this Prozac version of Rudy on the trail without wondering if his heart was really in this race.

We’ve got the big endorsement coming up any minute now as I write this. Stand by for video. Rudy’s planning to hit the trail for him this week, fueling rumors among idiots of an all-RINO ticket that would alienate any members of the base still sitting on the fence about Maverick. Exit quotation: “Once Rush recognizes that the race will be between John and Hillary Clinton, he’ll come around.”

Update: As promised. Note the emphasis on moving beyond blue/red politics. With the nomination almost cinched, Maverick can start focusing on independents and the general.

As for Rudy allegedly never doing things by half measures, see, er, this post.