Rudy Giuliani Isn’t As Strong A Candidate As He Appears At First Glance

In his latest Weekly Standard column, Hugh Hewitt talks to conservative women down in Florida and concludes that Rudy almost has the nomination in the bag…

“RIVERSIDE COUNTY is as “red” as any county in America, and getting redder. Before I spoke, the group had been entertained by the local home-schooling association’s girls’ choir, and many of the questions I received concerned illegal immigration and Hillary Clinton’s ambitions. In other words–this is to use the title of John Podhoretz’s invaluable book on places such as Riverside County, Bush Country.

Giuliani swept more than three-quarters of the votes, with the other three choices receiving smatterings of support. Keep in mind that this isn’t an exercise in name identification–these women knew each of the candidates–as well as every possible name in the “other” category. This was an informed choice. I stopped what I was doing, repelled the audience, and then conducted a focus group.

Like many other pundits, I have been wondering whether Giuliani can escape the snows of Iowa and New Hampshire in 2008 given that Pat Robertson won the former in 1988 and Pat Buchanan the latter in 1992. Giuliani is too “moderate” to win the GOP nod, right?

Wrong, if these ladies are to be believed. Among the many praises that gushed forth: decisive, experienced, loyal to “W”–an interesting positive, that–funny and, crucially, tough enough to take on the Clintons. There were many praises for Senator Frist, and some for John McCain, but Giuliani has their hearts–already.

…But if the ladies I spoke with on Monday are any indication of a trend–and there are excellent reasons to conclude that they are–the battle may already be over. For Giuliani to consolidate his position with the center-right would only require some deft appearances during the coming struggles over Supreme Court nominees. If he wades into the fray to help confirm the president’s nominees, his personal views on abortion will matter far less than if he is absent from these fights. He would also find it useful to get on the side of allowing the people a vote on the defense of marriage amendment through the process of state ratification or denial of ratification to a proposed amendment.”

Make no mistake about it, Rudy Giuliani could very well take the nomination in 2008. But I can tell you definitively that the battle ain’t over =D

Rudy is likable & very charismatic, he has a tough guy reputation on crime and terrorism, his stock went way up during this election cycle because of his effective campaigning for George Bush, and yes, he is “America’s mayor”.

But, Rudy is far from a lock. By 2008, 9/11 will be more than 6 years back and a lot of the fond memories people have of Rudy standing tall after that dark day will have lost their emotional impact. Furthermore, how is Rudy going to keep himself fresh and in the public eye until then? That’s an unknown.

Moreover, a lot of Republicans just don’t know all that much about Rudy other than the highlights.

For example, how many Republicans know Rudy is not just pro-abortion, but is in favor of partial-birth abortion? He’s also pro-gay marriage and has been in a very messy divorce. Giuliani’s former wife publicly accused him of “open and notorious adultery”. How do you think that’s going to play with the same Republicans who reviled Bill Clinton because he cheated on his wife?

Yes, I do agree with Hugh that there are things Rudy can do to reassure social conservatives about those issues, but will he do them and will they believe him? No matter what Giuliani does at this point, the reality is that there are going to be a significant number of social conservatives who just aren’t going to give him money, who aren’t going to go door to door for him, and who aren’t going to be all that motivated to turn out to support him on Nov 2, 2008. That’s not something that’s impossible to overcome, but it’s also a huge minus for a man who wants to be the Republican candidate for President.

Of course, I’m not saying Rudy is unelectable or can’t win the nomination, but I suspect a lot of Rudy’s luster is going to rub off after people get to know him a little better. Maybe he’ll still win despite that. I mean if for example, it comes down to Giuliani or John McCain, an egomaniacal blowhard who’s going to be 72 years old in 2008, Rudy may end up being a viable option. But at some point, I suspect Rudy’s stock is going to drop precipitously among Republicans when they get a better idea of what he stands for.

*** Correction ***: In the original post, I said incorrectly that there has never been a US President who was divorced. Actually, I had forgotten that Reagan divorced Jane Wyman, which made him the first US President to ever get a divorce. Thanks to RWN reader ChrisB for pointing out my mistake.

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