The staff primary: Only McCain and Romney competing?

Our sense has been that there are three serious candidates right now — Giuliani, McCain, and Romney — and a couple more who hope to go somewhere — Huckabee, Gingrich, and others. However, right now, only McCain and Romney seem to be actively competing in this. In The Fix’s recent announcement of a big hire in IA for McCain, Cilizza makes this point:

As we’ve written previously on The Fix, New York Gov. George Pataki has impressed operatives in Iowa (and even signed on a few), but his team at the moment is no match for those of McCain and Romney.

Remember that the major fight right now among aspiring presidential candidates is for staff talent — specifically in key early states like Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. The more talent McCain and Romney are able to scoop up before the midterm elections, the more difficult it will be for any other Republican candidate to seriously compete with the two frontrunners in Iowa and beyond.

This is probably what Chuck Grassley meant when he said that Giuliani was not yet in campaign mode in IA. Now, GiulianiBlog has responded quite strongly to this whole line of argumentation. He argues, in essence, that all you need is issues, bio, and personality and organization doesn’t matter.

I think that’s a little strong. Operatives matter. Building a turnout operation matters. And having people vouch for you matters. That’s very clear.