WASHINGTON – Rudy Giuliani, a GOP moderate on social issues, is quietly trying to sell himself to Iowa and New Hampshire voters as a conservative on fiscal and security matters with an under-the-radar campaign of direct mail and radio ads.
His fliers contend he "cut more taxes than any mayor in New York City history" and restored fiscal discipline to a city out of control. They say he "made families safer, putting criminals in jail." His radio spots echo those themes. Like his campaign speeches, his media pitches ignore his left-leaning stances on issues like abortion, gun control and gay rights.
Giuliani's roughly $5 million flurry of outreach activity in Iowa and New Hampshire over the past few months counters a belief among political insiders that he has given short shrift to those early voting states.
Indeed, he has shunned the broad-reach costly television ads typical of a front-running candidate. Rather, Giuliani has chosen quieter, relatively cheaper avenues to target voters more precisely in both states — conservatives who make up a large part of the GOP primary electorate and others his campaign has identified as likely to be persuaded to vote for him.
"He's running the pragmatic campaign," said Evan Tracey, president of TNS Media Intelligence/Campaign Media Analysis Group, which tracks political advertising. "He's being efficient, and I think he's doing the type of media right now that the campaign is comfortable with."
The reasons for his TV absence are twofold:
—He became a national figure following the 2001 terrorist attacks, leaving many people with a positive image of him and a sense that they know him. Thus, his campaign sees little reason to air the early television ads typically used to introduce a candidate to voters.
—He also must preserve his bank account to be able to compete against ultra-wealthy Mitt Romney, who already has sunk $17.5 million of his own money into his bid — including more than $10 million for TV ads — and has tens of millions of dollars more available to tap.
That said, Giuliani's campaign has checked TV ad rates in several early voting states, including Iowa and New Hampshire — an indication that it's gearing up to buy airtime.
In the meantime, Giuliani has paid at least $4 million to a Texas-based direct mail company for at least a dozen mailers in Iowa and New Hampshire combined, while spending more than $500,000 for radio ads in both states as well as South Carolina.
"No one is going to spend that kind of money if they're not serious about competing there. If they were going to write those states off, they wouldn't be spending a nickel there, they'd spend it somewhere else," said Christopher LaCivita, a Republican strategist unaffiliated with any presidential candidate. "If you're spending that kind of money, you're playing to win."
Giuliani's media approach has borne mixed results.
He is locked in a race for second place behind the double-digit leading Romney in Iowa, a state where social conservatives dominate and where Giuliani was not expected to do well given his moderate views on such issues as abortion, gun control and gay rights. In New Hampshire, Giuliani is in a close race for the lead after starting to close a gap with Romney, who led by wide margins over the summer.
Giuliani's aides still view Florida and delegate-rich states that hold contests on Feb. 5 as the most amenable territory. But the recent mail-and-radio effort reflects a recognition that Giuliani can't afford a series of losses before those states vote — and that he's making a play to do well in both Iowa and New Hampshire, if not win.
He has visited both states multiple times this year, but he has intensified his campaigning in New Hampshire over the past two weeks and was in the state Monday. Compared with Iowa, aides believe his message has a better chance of resonating in New Hampshire because Republicans there aren't overly focused on social issues and Giuliani is a fellow Northeasterner.
Over the past few months, a glossy brochure was sent to Iowa and New Hampshire voters laying out Giuliani's so-called 12 commitments — broad policy positions that amount to "a promise to this generation and generations to come that we will keep the American dream alive."
On security issues, he pledges in one mailer: "I will end illegal immigration, secure our borders and identify every non-citizen in our nation." Another references Sept. 11, 2001, and includes this quote from him: "You face bullies, tyrants and terrorists with intelligence and strength, not weakness. This is going to be our challenge for this generation."
On government spending: "I have the strongest record of fiscal conservatism, and I developed this record in one of the least conservative cities in America.
The radio ads carry largely the same themes, and one other: He can beat Democratic front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton.
An Iowa spot calls Giuliani the Democrats' "worst nightmare." Another in New Hampshire argues that he's "the Republican that Democrats just don't want to run against."