February 11, 2007

Rudy Pumps Up California GOP

Can Rudy Giuliani inspire the Republicans in the bluest of regions but with the reddest of blood? He seems to have answered that question in Sacramento, where the enthusiasm for his speech contrasted sharply with the polite but tepid response to one given earlier by the Republican Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger:

Rudolph W. Giuliani came west to learn whether his brand of Republican politics has a chance among party members significantly more conservative than himself. By the time he had received a fourth standing ovation Saturday at the California Republican Party convention, the answer seemed clear.

Equating the U.S. fight against terrorism with the Civil War and the Cold War, Giuliani told about 750 of his party's faithful that failure in Iraq would turn that country into a "massive headquarters for terrorism."

"Having had a job where I didn't have any choice but to make a decision," the former mayor of New York said, "prepares you as best you can be prepared to be the president of the United States." ...

Many in the audience said they are aware of the gaps between their views and Giuliani's. Nonetheless, several who were interviewed seemed willing to give him a break.

"I'm a Christian, and his views on a lot of social issues are to the left of mine," said Larry Stirling, a retired state superior court judge from San Diego. "But if you have to make a trade-off, I'll make the trade-off for Giuliani. He's been through a trial by fire. He's got gravitas. The first thing a president has to do is protect us. The rest is a secondary consideration."

Giuliani's speech "hit the right tone and the right messages," said Kevin C. Eckery, a Sacramento-based Republican political consultant. "He managed to be true to himself and connect with an audience that is more conservative than he is. It shows he can do it."

Well, it's still pretty early, and the enthusiastic response may have had to do with a couple of issues that relate to potential support for Rudy but don't equate to it. First, Giuliani has a mastery of oratory that may be unmatched among Presidential candidates in this cycle. I have not heard Mitt Romney live, but he gets fairly good reviews on delivery, if not always on content. McCain struggles to occasionally be eloquent, but does journeyman work on the stump.

Giuliani is in a class of his own, as I can attest from personal experience. I have heard him speak live, first at the Republican convention in 2004 and again in 2005 here in Minnesota. He commands a room like few others can, and he does it by the force of his personality as well as the content. Giuliani knows to stay on point about national security, which has become his strength early in the cycle along with demonstrated leadership. He discusses his less-popular positions, but has learned to do it in a non-confrontational style that delivers a message that the Republicans can and should have a big tent, rather than a narrow ideological focus.

However, it's precisely his ability to call for consensus that unnerves so many Republicans. After having waited for fiscal responsibility and more advancement on the social issues near to the hearts of so many in the GOP for the past six years, another compromise candidate does not sound particularly exciting. Many in the party, like Giuliani himself, think George Bush has done an excellent job protecting the nation, but squandered conservative credibility on budgetary and small-government issues. Giuliani, thus far, has not alleviated concerns over those same principles, and his positions on abortion and other social issues will seem like a step backwards from where we are now.

All of that is clearly understood by the Giuliani campaign. He offers the GOP a chance to remain firm on national security and a charismatic leader to lead Republicans in a charge for the center at the same time. He could challenge the Democrats for their death-grip on the coasts if he can help the GOP hold the center and South -- if Republicans can trust him not to betray them on guns and abortion. Giuliani presents Republicans with a tough choice indeed.


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» Rudy Wows Sacramento from Sierra Faith
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