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John Podhoretz explains the surprising popularity of Rudy Giuliani in the early stages of the 2008 presidential primary campaign, writing that Republicans want to like Rudy -- if he'll let them. In his New York Post column, Podhoretz notes more than a few of the hurdles that Giuliani faces, but insists that neither conservatives nor Giuliani want to go to war over them:
Republicans not only like Rudy, they want to like him. Conservative Republicans want to like him. Socially conservative Republicans want to like him.
In this respect, he represents a momentous change from prior candidates hailing from outside the party's socially conservative wing.
Past "liberal" GOP candidates and would-be candidates have sought the nomination by taking strong stands counter to the views of the party's conservative base - like Elizabeth Dole opposing handguns in 2000. Those candidates, that is, were engaging in battle against the social conservatives. They were fighting a culture war within the GOP, trying to rally the party's more socially liberal elements - women and suburbanites in particular - to defeat the hard-line element.
Even John McCain, with a sterling Senate voting record on such matters, ran for president in 2000 by criticizing social conservatives when it came to abortion for what he called "the polarization that has existed and continues on this issue."
Rudy, by contrast, is trying to convince social conservatives that he's their friend. They disagree on certain matters, he'll say, but on the key issue of our time - the struggle of the West against Islamic extremism - they'll never have a better or more staunch ally and leader.
And while his personal views on some issues may differ from theirs, he'll appoint judges in the manner of Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, John Roberts and Samuel Alito - which is, in the end, most of what a president can do to support the ideas in which social conservatives deeply believe.
Podhoretz may have provided the key element of Giuliani's broad appeal within the GOP. The Republican moderates that have challenged for leadership of the party have almost seemed as though they were on a mission to combat the conservative elements within the party. At different times, all of the various flavors of conservatism seemed under attack in that manner -- social, fiscal, and national-security conservatives have all received more than their share of blame for electoral difficulties, real and imagined.
One of the arguments for supporting a moderate is that moderates have a better chance of winning general elections. Hillary Clinton knows that, which is why she antagonized the left-wing activist base of her party to build centrist credentials during her term in the Senate. They generally have a tough time in the primaries, however, because of real or perceived indifference or outright hostility to the party base. In Rudy's case, we haven't seen that kind of hostility, unlike John McCain in some instances where his frustration with conservatives got the best of him. Rudy doesn't apologize for his positions, but he casts them in such a way as to build a consensus for leadership as the overriding consideration in the primaries.
In short, he's the safe moderate, or that's how he wants to position himself. Republicans so far seem willing to buy into it. However, conservatives still would prefer a genuine conservative who champions their issues more closely than Rudy has over the years if they can get one. If a conservative in the mold of Newt Gingrich (but without the baggage) had a credible shot in the primaries, they would respect Rudy but switch allegiance fairly quickly.
That's why we see people supporting Duncan Hunter as an alternative to Rudy: respected, sincere, intelligent, and reliably conservative on the issues most dear to the conservative causes. And Hunter is running, although without the star power and the fundraising capabilities of Giuliani. We haven't elected a president directly out of the House in long memory, and usually those campaigns are little more than vanity tours (Bob Dornan comes to mind here). However, Hunter is much more thoughtful and credible than most, and if he could find a way to break into the top tier, he probably would garner the base support that would undo the triumvirate of Rudy, Romney, and McCain. Mike Huckabee might be another such candidate.
Failing that or some other spectacular Reagan-like figure making a Deus ex machina appearance in the primaries, conservatives will have to decide between the three leaders as we see them now. Podhoretz's analysis makes Rudy a tough man to bet against.Sphere It View blog reactions
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» Concerning Rudy from The American Empire
Captain’s Quarters has a piece that nicely summarizes Rudy Giuliani’s place in the race for the Republican nomination. John Podhoretz explains the surprising popularity of Rudy Giuliani in the early stages of the 2008 presidential primary ... [Read More]
Tracked on February 7, 2007 10:19 AM
» Concerning Rudy from NW Bloggers
Captain's Quarters has a piece that nicely summarizes Rudy Giuliani's place in the race for the Republican nomination. John Podhoretz explains the surprising popularity of Rudy Giuliani in the early stages of the 2008 presidential primary ... [Read More]
Tracked on February 7, 2007 10:23 AM
» Republicans Want To Like Rudy, If They Can from Bill's Bites
Republicans Want To Like Rudy, If They Can Ed Morrissey John Podhoretz explains the surprising popularity of Rudy Giuliani in the early stages of the 2008 presidential primary campaign, writing that Republicans want to like Rudy -- if he'll let [Read More]
Tracked on February 7, 2007 2:05 PM
» Bill's Nibbles-- 2007.02.07 from Old War Dogs
Some Bill's Bites posts, some things I excerpted and linked but I'm sending you to the original post. I may rearrange the order of the links within this post as I add new things that I think belong above the [Read More]
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» I Like Rudy, But Can I Vote For Him? from Simply Kimberly | Blog
Rudy Guliani is going to run for President of the United States. I like Rudy. I like him a lot. He is forever and always America’s Mayor. But can I vote for him? That is the tough question. I am a social conservative and there are some pretty... [Read More]
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Tracked on February 9, 2007 6:54 AM
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