THE EXPERTS GET IT WRONG
Karl Rove in his first Newsweek column, "How to Beat Hillary":
But when a GOP nominee emerges, he needs to remember no Republican is as well known as Hillary. The Republican has room to grow in the polls as voters get a better sense of who he is and what animates him. Here's what he needs to do.
Plan now to introduce yourself again right after winning the nomination. Don't assume everyone knows you. Many will still not know what you've done in real life. Create a narrative that explains your life and commitments.
Cokie Roberts this morning on NPR, discussing the Republican candidates' focus on Hillary:
I think that this strategy is going to be hard once they've finished the primaries, because people are not going to know who they are and what they stand for, so they've got some work to do here.
This is straight out of the textbook: after the primaries, a non-incumbent has to define him/herself, otherwise he/she will be defined by the other party. Hillary's celebrity status makes her the one exception this year.
Except she isn't the one exception. Giuliani is also an exception. I've said this before and I'll say it again: People already know who he is -- or they think they do. He's already well defined in voters' minds, and he did the defining. He's defined himself as the guy who tamed Dodge City and the guy who walked through the Valley of Death in the fall of 2001.
9/11 was a TV spectacle for most Americans, but they think they experienced it the way a gold star mother experienced World War II. Thus, saying Giuliani has to define himself this year is like saying Eisenhower had to define himself in 1952.
This why the things everybody thought would bring Giuliani down haven't brought him down. Cross-dressing, Kerik, the selection of 7 World Trade as the site of the emergency command center, the bad radios on 9/11 -- it all seems silly or peripheral to voters, because voters see him as a man who did great things.
He can't be defined by his opponents -- he can only be re-defined. And I'm not sure how that would be done. But what's been done up till now, by Democrats and by the Republicans who are competing with him, isn't working.
If no one ever figures this out -- i.e., if everybody continues to think the public perception of him can still be easily shaped -- he'll be the next president.