Two interesting pieces on the Giuliani campaign, the first coming from New York Magazine. They take a look at the conventional wisdom and find that all the ink about Giuliani having no chance doesn’t quite seem to hold:
Once the rest of the country sees Giuliani up close, the conventional New York wisdom once held, his campaign will surely fold. So far, exactly the opposite has happened. The more Rudy has put himself out there, the higher his numbers have climbed. Last week, a CBS poll showed Giuliani leading McCain by a whopping 21 points while a Quinnipiac survey found Giuliani running five points ahead of Hillary nationally, and dead even in blue states.
Yes, Rudy is the new horse in the race and thus, for now, the most compelling. Much of his popularity comes from the fact that he’s entered the race just as McCain’s ties to George Bush’s Iraq policy threaten to render his once inevitable nomination stillborn. At the same time, an idea has taken root that the 70-year-old Arizona senator, cancer survivor, and former POW, who would be the oldest person ever elected president, won’t be up to the job.
Giuliani’s pro-war stance and his moderate social-issue positions may yet bury him. So could a lack of money, a green campaign staff, his thin political résumé, his trifecta of marriages, and, not least of all, the fact that the 9/11 card, however powerful it is, could simply prove too flimsy to carry him all the way to the White House. With 21 months to go before Election Day, there’s still more than enough time for McCain to reassert himself—or any number of other scenarios to play out that don’t involve Giuliani’s becoming president. Still, no Republican presidential candidate in modern history has held this big a lead a year out and not scored the GOP nomination.
Believe it or not, America’s Mayor could be America’s next president.
It seems that the more exposure Giuliani gets, the better he seems to look. The question is why: and I think it comes down to something more than just being “the President of 9/11”.
It’s a reader of Andrew Sullivan’s that seems to understand what’s going on here:
Democrats have made an enormously stupid bet about the Republican Party: you can see it in their blogs. They have told each other that we were sure to nominate Elmer Gantry and go to the country with a Bush Clone like George Allen. They have sworn, up and down, that Rudy could not get the nomination. Someone like Kos or Josh Marshall will never, ever get this about us – we are an extremely pragmatic group of people who like to win and aren’t willing to lose just because liberal bloggers and the Media say we should lose.
Authenticity vs. inauthenticity. That’s the story of 2008. Rudy is real. You can touch and feel the Catholic kid from the Neighborhood. You know that some of his friends died in the Towers. Rudy is real. McCain has sometimes tossed away his authenticity he earned the hard way, and let’s face it, he’s not in the best of health. Romney is not quite authentic but Lord how he tries.
I think that’s exactly it. For all Rudy Giuliani’s many faults, there’s one thing that he is not and that is inauthentic. He could have tried to spin his way out of his own positions on civil rights for gay couples, firearms, or abortion. He hasn’t. He went to Sean Hannity and said what he believes.
And yet, conservatives seem to be embracing him.
It’s that authenticity that is Giuliani’s biggest asset against anyone of any party in the field. Hillary is as made-up as they come — she’s like a politicized, feminized Barbie. Barack Obama is the same thing — he’ll be what you want him to be but one is never quite sure what he really stands for beyond all the bobble-headed platitudes. Edwards — well, putting the blow-dried trial lawyer in front of the former federal prosecutor would be like putting a show dog in front of a pit bull.
Why would evangelicals support someone who seems so hostile to their beliefs? For one, Giuliani isn’t all that hostile. His personal pro-choice convictions are matched by his desire to restrain the judicial activism of the Supreme Court by appointing judges who will follow the principles of the Constitution and not legislate social policy from the bench. He’s not for gay marriage rights, but civil unions. His personal foibles may be troublesome, but the very essence of evangelical thought is that we are all sinners in need of redemption.
Evangelicals can support Giuliani for the reason the rest of the Republican Party appears to be embracing him — because he’s honest and forthright in his affairs. That’s a principle of evangelical Christianity that Giuliani has in spades, and it may be enough to win over those who would otherwise be skeptical about his candidacy.
It’s far too early to say that Giuliani (or anyone, for that matter) is truly a “front-runner.” A campaign that has been building momentum for months can die in a heartbeat and underdogs can become leaders of their party just as quickly. However, it’s important not to discount the value of Giuliani’s innate authenticity in this race — especially against the current field. In politics, perception matters as much as anything, if not more than anything. The American people have seen Giuliani provide leadership in a time of profound crisis, and they’ve seen someone who is unafraid to speak his mind and put his ideas out there without the need to spin and obfuscate.
Giuliani is very much in play, and I’ve the feeling that the more the media tries to marginalize him as having no chance in the early primaries, the more many conservatives will want to support him.