Thursday, March 8, 2007

THE BULLET-PROOF GIULIANI IS RE-WRITING GOP POLITICS. Five Reasons Why So Many Social Conservatives are Turning to Him.

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[A column for The Wanderer, the nation’s oldest Catholic newspaper— with some updating and expansion].

CHICAGO—So far, Rudy Giuliani has been bulletproof.

“Bulletproof” is a Chicago term for a politician whose popularity surmounts any disaster, who can get elected no matter what has happened to him. Think Richard M. Daley who was reelected mayor here with a 70-plus percentage despite unprecedented scandals. Last week, Giuliani topped the Republican field and beat any Democrat matched against him. If this popularity keeps up, they will nominate him. If nothing worse happens to him than has occurred up to now, he will win the presidency and be the second Catholic—albeit not in good standing—to serve.

While Guiliani was campaigning elsewhere, Mitt Romney came to Chicago for a fund-raiser and to meet with a number of social conservatives. Nobody really pledged their troth to the former Massachusetts governor but I thought he made a very good impression. A private off-the-record pre-breakfast session had him state his convictions in a brilliant, lawyer-like way. And it also featured a tussle of wits between a conservative leader and he. Since the session was not for attribution, no inkling of the debate can be made. Also the quarrel was “inside baseball” involving whether or not Romney did all he could on a certain issue which he has been touting as his specialty. Everyone at the session except the two participants looked like they were watching a hot tennis game with the ball being batted to and fro.

Since the debate was arcane to me—rather like the question of whether or not Adam and Eve had navels—I watched the brilliant governor get animated and vigorous: a wonderful indication of how strongly he believes in himself. He behaved as I would expect a president would behave—not condescending, not playing patty-cake with a critic, but standing up for his point of view in dramatic and convincing fashion. There was one minor slip-up on his part, a kind of venial sin but if you fancy your presidents firm and adamantly refusing to back down in behalf of social convention, you would have hugely enjoyed this.

But back to Giuliani.

I got a lot of poll numbers to throw at you. First, Giuliani versus his closest competitor, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) who has been running for president since early 2000.

In the latest USA Today/Gallup poll it’s Giuliani 44, McCain 20. Rasmussen: Giuliani 34, McCain 19. Fox News, Giuliani 39, McCain 19. Time magazine, Giuliani 38, McCain 24. ABC News/Washington Post, Giuliani 44, McCain 21. Zogby, Giuliani 29, McCain 20.

Now Giuliani matched against Mitt Romney, former Massachusetts governor and mega-multimillionaire (reportedly favored by the Bush people as the successor to the 44th president):

USA Today/Gallup, Giuliani 44, Romney 7.2; Rasmussen, Giuliani 34, Romney 9; Fox News, Giuliani 39, Romney 6; Time Giuliani 38, Romney 7. ABC News/ Washington Post, Giuliani 44, Romney 4; Zogby Giuliani 29, Romney 9.

Followed by Giuliani compared with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich:

USA Today/Gallup, Giuliani 44, Gingrich 9; Rasmussen Giuliani 34, Gingrich 12; Fox News Giuliani 39, Gingrich 7; Time Giuliani 38, Gingrich 12; ABC News/Washington Post Giuliani 44, Gingrich 15; Zogby Gkiuliani 29, Gingrich 7.

The average of the major polls last week compiled by www.realclearpolitics.com –an objective statistical analysis—shows Giuliani standing at 38, McCain 20.5, Romney, 7.3 and Gingrich 10.3.

In a head-to-head with leading Democratic contenders, how does Giuliani do against Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.)? The www.realclearpolitics.com average of Newsweek, Time, Zogby, Rasmussen, Quinnipiac, Marist and Fox News has Giuliani at 48.1, Clinton at 43.0. Giuliani running against Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) puts Giuliani at 45.3, Obama 11.5. Running Giuliani against John Edwards, former U. S. Senator from South Carolina, Giuliani has 46.2, Edwards 42.6. Among all well-known candidates for president, Giuliani has relatively small negatives, high positives, the worst being Hillary Clinton for the Democrats and John McCain for the Republicans.

The interesting thing about Giuliani is that social conservatives are plumping for him in droves. Giuliani is pro-abort, pro-gay (though not same-sex marriage). Traditional conservatives—that means folks who oppose the Iraq War as well as abortion, oppose free trade in favor of fair trade and who strongly oppose illegal, sometimes even legal, immigration—are diffident about him but they are a relatively miniscule number in the conservative Republican category. Yet he is a high-flying candidate. Why do so many social conservatives favor him?

First, his major competition, John McCain has made more than his usual quota of mistakes. Unfriendly critics have called this “the nut factor.” Friendly ones have said that five years in solitary confinement at the Hanoi Hilton make a resounding impact on one’s temperament and personality, cite McCain. A hero who refused to allow his captives to free him because he was the son and grandson of Navy top brass, McCain at a feisty age 71 has a blow-torch temper and a reputation for rashness. Just last week he made two spectacular errors that dismayed his supporters. In making a semi-official announcement of his candidacy on the highly-rated David Letterman late night TV show on CBS, McCain uttered what has become the gaffe of his career: “Americans are very frustrated and they have every right to be. We’ve wasted a lot of our most precious treasure, which is American lives.” (Italics mine).

The statement is very close to a Barack Obama statement that he made in Iowa during a speech and which he apologized for. Obama said that Bush “wasted” American lives in Iraq; it is one thing for a novice Democratic candidate to make such a statement in wartime (which caused Obama grief); it is quite another for a grizzled war veteran Republican senator with a decades-long career on military affairs committees to say the same thing. More than anyone else running, a number of McCain allies were dismayed. They felt he should know from personal experience that any loss of life in behalf of country—and any time spent as hostage which involves suffering—has never been regarded as a waste but an incalculable payment for the liberties and safety we enjoy. McCain’s statement got Obama off the hook and is recorded in the Democratic party’s arsenal of sound bytes for use when the general campaign gets heated.

Moreover, by declaring American lives have been wasted in Iraq and still supporting George W. Bush’s surge, or expansion of military personnel there, McCain has put himself in an impossible political bind.

The second error McCain made involved the biggest conservative event of the year—the Conservative Political Action conference which has been held in Washington for 34 years, featuring more than 1,000 grassroots conservative activists which for right-wingers is equivalent to the Superbowl for football fans. The group invites all key conservative leaders to speak. McCain spurned the invitation because, he said, his conservative credentials are beyond question. The real reason he didn’t want to go is that he has been under severe attack by conservatives for a number of reasons—his authorship of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance act number one—and he didn’t want to be booed at the event.

The act forbids certain political ads from being run within a few days of a federal election which allows major media organs to hold full-sway without dissent. But not attending was a big mistake. Romney bused hundreds of young activists to the meeting with the campaign paying their admission, a time-honored practice to hustle straw poll votes that most candidates do. When a straw-poll was conducted, Romney won the support of the conservatives with 21%. McCain was at the bottom of the heap. But the interesting thing was that Giuliani ran a strong second with 17%. Guiliani’s “hustle” for votes was not particularly impressive: the votes he got were genuine.

Why is Rudy Giuliani bullet-proof? And running so strongly with social conservatives, with his record? He’s pro-abort, pro-gay rights, has been married three times, had wife number 2 eject his girl friend (who became wife number 3) from Gracie Mansion when he tried to sneak her in after a dispute and, in a hilarious example of cross-dressing, appeared in a blonde wig, skirt and high-heeled shoes at a fun media roast in New York when he was mayor a few years back. Are those social conservatives out of their minds? In an interview with The Wanderer, they listed five major reasons.

First, the war. No group wants to win the Iraq War more than social conservatives. While traditional conservatives, the Pat Buchanan, Howard Phillips types, reject the premise of the war—as do libertarians--they are by polling averages a tiny splinter faction. They were not in evidence at GPAC and have either left the GOP for third parties or are reluctantly supporting Democratic choices. To social conservatives who want to triumph in Iraq, Giuliani is the ultimate hero, the embattled leader of 9/11 who inspired his city and the nation. Social conservatives believe George W. Bush is too weak on domestic Muslims, saying Islam has been taken over by fringe extremists which many social conservatives doubt—maintaining that the religion is out to destroy Christianity. In his talks to social conservatives, Giuliani pledges that he will safeguard the moral codes of the Judeo-Christian heritage against terrorism, Iraq and Islam. His pitch is more robust in this connection than anyone else’s.

Many social conservatives believe another terrorist attack is only a matter of time. To deal with it, they feel, there should be a tough guy president and more judges named to go after the miscreants without worrying unduly about civil liberties. Which prompted writer Maggie Gallagher, a strong pro-lifer, to say, “I never voted for Rudy when I lived in New York city for one simple reason: abortion…Why would I even think of changing my mind? Two things: national security and Hillary Clinton’s Supreme Court appointments.” Says a friend of mine who leans toward Cong. Duncan Hunter. “You know, if we have a another terrorist attack before election day, the campaign is all over—everybody will be for Rudy. He will sweep the country because only he knows how to handle it.”

Second, inner city crime and x-rated culture. What Giuliani did in Manhattan, to clean up the gangs and close down porno-movie houses has made an enormous impact on the country. Giuliani was the best friend the New York police department ever had. Now that he is running for president, he has refused to trim his sails on abortion or gay rights because to do so would show pandering—but makes headway by saying instead that if he becomes president he will name justices like Sam Alito and John Roberts who will help him fight crime. Strict constructionists just automatically are pro-lifers. A delegate at C-PAC told me, “you know, I don’t care if Rudy is a pro-abort. If he names strict constructionist judges, that’s enough for me. I would doubt any overnight conversion to pro-life anyhow. Romney’s conversion is opportunist. Also there’s his weird religion, Mormonism where when you die you get to occupy a planet with your wife. What’s that about? Then, the second choice is McCain who’s voted against tax cuts, is with the Greens and comes close to being a whacko.”

Third, the deep-seated wish of social conservatives to drive the ACLU and the New York Times nuts. No one says it better than conservative writer Noemie Emery: “If you believe the enemy of your enemy must be your friend, conservatives have no better friend than the mayor bete noire and scourge of the limousine liberals, the race hustlers and friends of identity politics, the opponents of capital punishment, the municipal unions, the American Civil Liberties Union and the New York Times. Some will want him to be president if only to annoy all these people—a temptation too big to resist.”

Fourth, social conservatives respect that he will make his own way, without nit-picking or domination by political correctness. That was the way he ran the fourth-biggest government in the U.S. and held an office that grabbed initiative and let the intelligentsia fret about his methods, building an office that shored up executive powers (far more than, say, the governorship of Texas which Bush has traded on but which has fewer powers constitutionally than many other governorships). He took over when the city was in crisis, a lone Republican in an ocean of liberals and Democrats and with a vicious media harpooning him every day. With all these liabilities, he succeeded and thumbed his nose at the elites in the most elitist city in the world.

Fifth, many social conservatives see the possibility of a re-building of the Republican party with Giuliani. In the past the GOP has been the party of the Sunbelt with roots in the South and the Protestant evangelical churches. But these days that’s not enough, especially with California which used to support Reagan gone liberal. And increasingly the Northeast has become Democratic country. Also, Illinois, once a swing state, has become deep blue with the growing liberalization of Chicago, Cook county and the collar counties. But Giuliani’s strength could, they believe, add a strong northern contingent while keeping the south and west. His candidacy is a natural growth prospect for the GOP, they feel.

Sure, the next fusillade of bad news bullets may strike him down, but so far—and for the above reasons—Rudy Giuliani has been bulletproof. And leads the pack as the man most likely to become the second Catholic president, even if he’s not in the good graces of the Church. On a minor note, it would be interesting to see (a) if he intends to receive Communion basis his marital state and (b) if the red-robed Princes of the Church, McCarrick, Wuerl and Egan, would condescend to chum with him as they do so happily already do with Democratic pro-aborts Kennedy, Biden, Dodd et al. How much you wanna bet they won’t? Gee, on that note alone to watch them run for the exits, it’d be fun to see him at 1600 Pennsylvania avenue northwest.

11 comments:

  1. I’m glad you added the qualifier “So far” to your premise of Giuliani as being “bulletproof”, otherwise your introductory paragraph would have been a blatant paradox and contradiction.

    Your basic assertion that Giuliani is “bulletproof” is undermined and/or nullified by the conditional claim - “If nothing worse happens to him than has occurred up to now, he will win the presidency....” which, in essence, is saying that Giuliani, after all, is NOT bulletproof.

    The same subtle conflicting tone doesn’t quite disappear completely throughout the article, I must admit.

    Anyway, it’s arguably safe to say that these early polls are basically “name recognition” polls and, therefore, Giuliani garners the most votes. This is someone who was at the center of 9-11. But some view Giuliani as a “sausage” (no pun intended to its “bullet" shape) in that people love sausages until they know more about its background and ingredients. The more people (conservatives mostly) know about Giuliani - his personal life, his positions on important conservative issues as well as business dealings - the more they are repulsed by him.

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  2. "The editors of the National Catholic Register have now joined the fray against the headlong rush to annoint Rudy as the 2008 Republican nominee for president...."
    --Jay Anderson (http://thepublicsquare.blogspot.com/)

    It's worth reading the whole editorial and asking which master will be serve, God or Mammon? While there's a lot to like in Rudy, there is also that albatross of his essential morals and values beyond the question of public safety.

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  3. elizabeth alexanderMarch 8, 2007 at 9:37 AM

    "A conservative leader and HIM!" Puh-leez!!

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  4. Tom-
    This guy rose to an occasion heroically at one critical time. He also managed a chaotic mess of hundreds of thousands into an organized disciplined group.

    Rudi? No, Ulysses S. Grant. I wish to the Almighty that there were such men available in our modern system of electing persons.

    Grant was not known to be a great president, as he belived that his subordinates would follow his policies.
    Does this sound familiar?

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  5. Rudy's problem with social conservatives is one that all three front-runners have to one degree or another: Even though all three have made committments to nominate more Sam Alitos, each has a past that creates a nagging doubt in one's gut.

    The hypothetical scenario we fear is as follows: The candidate promises to nominate an Alito, but with his fingers crossed behind his back. When the time comes, he nominates a stealth candidate that he knows is probably another Souter. When this is discovered (after it's too late) he throws up his hands and says, "Gosh, he really seemed to me like someone who'd be another Alito."

    In this hypothetical scenario, the candidate has this situation pre-meditated from the beginning -- even now, in fact. The candidate is counting on social conservatives to give him the same pass, the same benefit of doubt, that we gave Reagan over Anthony Kennedy and Bush 41 over Souter.

    I am not claiming to know this hypothesis to be demonstrably true of any of the front-runners. The trouble is, I can't categorically rule it out for any of them, either.

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  6. A word of advice I would give to any of the three front-runner candidates, if I could:

    Don’t plan on following the scenario/strategy I detailed previously. If it is your secret strategy, you are operating on the basis of a mistaken premise.

    For a variety of reasons time and space don’t permit me to detail at present, the situation for judicial appointments – and, correspondingly, social conservatives’ perception of that situation – has changed since Reagan and Bush 41. The party base will cut you no slack on the appointment of another Souter, especially if they had doubts about your intentions from the beginning. It will be received as a deliberate (and unforgivable) betrayal.

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  7. Below is a further cautionary word of advice I would give any of the three candidates (again, if I could) lest the candidate in question be tempted to take a foolish gamble and bet on his ability to survive the consequences of the aforementioned betrayal:

    Prospective Consequences:
    1) An appreciable loss of base support, diminishing your short-term political capital.
    2) A primary challenge in 2012 will win enough votes to embarrass you as an incumbent and cripple you for the general election.
    3) A number of disaffected base voters will fail to volunteer or turn out in 2012, depriving you of a potentially indispensable margin in the general election.
    4) A third-party challenger will shave considerably more votes off your total in 2012 than Nader shaved off Gore’s total in 2000.

    As a president inheriting an unpopular war, you will have an uphill battle for popularity and can’t count on a landslide re-election, even in a best-case scenario. The above consequences would likely make you a one-term president, and damage the prospects for the party in subsequent elections.

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  8. It's going to be hard to take Giuliani seriously as a candidate once that picture of him dressed up as a Rockette hits the airwaves in campaign commercials.

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  9. For the record, there were over 6,000 right-wingers at CPAC.

    Giuliani is in a great position start, but a lot will happen between now and next Feb. He's getting hit with a lot right now, and he hasn't done anything to inoculate at the national level. For me personally, watching the YouTube video of Rudy in drag was a definite turn off (http://youtube.com/watch?v=4IrE6FMpai8). Rudy has great fiscal credentials, but those are mirrored by his other executive competitor Mitt Romney.
    If the conservative presidential gaggle (ie Brownback, Huckabee, Guilmore, Tancredo, etc.) starts to fold and supporters back Romney as oppose to Guiliani and McCain, I think Mitt will be in a good position in the long run. If you overlook the polls, Romney seems to have the most capable campaign operation so far.
    It's also worth noting that Grover Norquist introduced Romney at CPAC.

    Anyway, right now the nomination is Guiliani's to lose... and I'm watching him lose it right now. He maybe bullet proof, but if he doesn't move, he's going to get run over...

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  10. Nicholas G. Hahn IIIMarch 10, 2007 at 4:05 PM

    Outstanding article Tom. Indeed, Social Conservatives have to be pragmatic this year. By the way, I had no idea Rudy was a Catholic; when was the last time he was spotted at mass?

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  11. If Fred gets in, Rudy will have a problem. (I'll assume that Fred knows that money is important...)

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