USA Today takes a look at Giuliani’s chances at getting the Republican nomination in 2008. What’s interesting is that their poll show that most Republicans didn’t know about Giuliani’s position on social issues — which seems surprising given that the media has been hammering him on it for some time.
That actually works to Giuliani’s advantage, as it gives him an opportunity to show why he’d be a candidate that social conservatives can support. Giuliani has already stated that he would nominate judges in the mold of Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito, which is a good start. However, he’s going to have to clarify his position on gay marriage, abortion, and gun control to win. He has an opportunity to reinvent himself should he be willing to take it, and if he’s serious about running, he’s going to have to confront those issues.
His related problem is that once he does that, he runs the risk of alienating moderates inclined to support him. He can’t swing too far to the right, as that puts him in the same space as everyone else jockeying for that position.
What Giuliani needs to do is run as a kind of “Third Way” candidate — someone who will be absolutely resolute on national defense, keep taxes low, and will support family values, but by encouraging character rather than legislative policy. Giuliani can speak on the breakdown of the American family in general terms and still appeal to social conservatives.
If Giuliani can moderate his position and speak in the language that social conservatives understand, I don’t necessarily think that there will be a huge backlash against him from social conservatives. Social conservatives aren’t going to hand the White House to a John Edwards or a Hillary Clinton or a Barack Obama just because they have some issues with Giuliani. Even though some social conservatives might stay home, Giuliani can pick up the libertarian-leaning Republicans, fiscal conservatives, and moderates who abandoned the GOP in the 2006 cycle. So long as there’s more of them then there are Republicans who would never consider Giuliani, he is still very much in the game.
Assuming Giuliani doesn’t flame out sometime in the next year or so (which, admittedly, is always a possibility) he has a strong chance at picking up the nomination. He’s going to have to have a road-to-Damascus moment on the Second Amendment, but he’s got the time to do so. Giuliani’s greatest asset is that he exudes a sense of leadership — when he’s in the room, there’s no doubt that he’s in charge. What he will have to do is use that personal gravitas to reach out to the Republican base. If he can pull that off, and I see a strong chance he can, he can assuage the doubts of conservatives of all stripes and position himself as the next great American leader.