The Christian Science Monitor takes a look at the state of the GOP nomination race and finds that McCain is sinking while Giuliani’s star on the rise. Now, given that there’s more than a year to go before the race even gets close to being determinative, it is interesting to note the general trends.
Powerline has video of Giuliani’s appearance on Hannity and Colmes this week (Part One and Part Two). What’s interesting about Giuliani is that he isn’t acting apologetic over his positions on the Second Amendment and abortion. He’s saying exactly what he believes, which isn’t where I would have gone, but might actually be a better course of action for him.
This approach has some huge upsides and some huge downsides. The biggest upside is that it preserves Giuliani’s rep as a straight-shooter, which helps him against McCain, but also is refreshing from an American politician. It’s rare that a politician will sit down and admit that he has his disagreements with the base of his (or her) party, and then show why they have common ground.
Of course, that leads to the huge downside: there are unquestionably socially conservative voters who will not vote for any candidate who is personally pro-life, even if they wish to see Roe v. Wade overturned as a matter of law or policy. However, Giuliani’s position is consistent, and may not be as unpalatable as some would think. The big question is how many people take the view that Giuliani’s views make him categorically unacceptable versus the number of independents he brings in.
My personal take is that he’ll bring in more than he loses. Evangelicals, even those who oppose abortion, aren’t generally the sort of fanatics that the press makes them out to be. Pragmatically, a Giuliani Presidency would move this country forwards in terms of respecting the lives of the unborn, at least when it comes to judges. Giuliani will have to answer some tough questions about federal statutes against partial-birth abortion, the Mexico City Protocols, and other abortion issues, but I think there’s a chance he can remain consistent in his views and still stand with conservatives.
I’m not alone in that assessment. As the Christian Science Monitor piece notes:
“I tend to think if Giuliani catches fire, he could win” even the South Carolina primary, says Dick Bennett, a nonpartisan pollster based in New Hampshire, who has been polling in early nominating states. The key is that South Carolina has an open primary, meaning that independents can vote.
The bigger question here is why Rudy Giuliani, a relatively liberal Republican is beating the arguably more conservative John McCain. Larry Sabato notes the phenomenon:
“Is it that Republicans are saying to themselves, ‘McCain is too close to this unpopular president and this unpopular war’?” says Larry Sabato, a political scientist at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. “Or are they saying, ‘I never liked McCain, I can’t swallow him, he has too many problems, like age and temper, and I’ve always liked Giuliani’? I think it’s a bit of everything.”
“It’s very revealing – the intensity of anti-McCain sentiment out there among Republicans,” Mr. Sabato adds. “I encounter it whenever I give a talk.”
I think it comes down to the Aretha Franklin factor: R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Evangelicals don’t trust McCain since he trashed them in 2000. Fiscal conservatives don’t trust him on taxes. Small government conservatives don’t trust him because of McCain-Feingold. Anti-war voters don’t trust him because he’s the President’s most stalwart supporter on the war. While McCain has made an effort to reestablish his conservative street cred, he hasn’t yet been able to repair those bridges with key Republican groups quite yet.
Giuliani, on the other hand, cannot be accused of pandering. He’s taken the Straight Talk Express theme that McCain used to have as a centerpiece and made it his own. McCain seems to be pandering, while Giuliani appears to be the more principled of the two. When it comes right down to it, conservatives tend to trust Giuliani, and not trust McCain.
Of course, this analysis leaves out the influence of the other candidates, mainly Mitt Romney who could easily be the beneficiary of a McCain-Giuliani split, as well as dark horses like Newt Gingrich and Mike Huckabee. However, the trend lines are unmistakable — Giuliani’s waxing while McCain wanes. This far out, anything could happen, but what is truly interesting is despite the predictions that conservatives really don’t like Rudy Giuliani, they keep stubbornly insisting on supporting him. While there’s evidence that his record may take the shine off of that support, it hasn’t happened yet. It’s still a wide open race, and will be for probably another 12 months or so, but it does show that some of the conventional wisdom about this race may not be as strong as one would think…