Rudy Giuliani, out to an early and somewhat surprising lead in the Republican presidential primary race, has begun addressing conservative groups to make his case for the nomination. The New York Sun reports that Giuliani has adopted a vision-style approach while retaining his strengths in policy, painting a future for the GOP as the party of freedom:
Mayor Giuliani is calling on the Republican Party to redefine itself as "the party of freedom," focusing on lower taxes, school choice, and a health care system rooted in free market principles.
Delivering a policy-driven overview of his presidential platform yesterday, Mr. Giuliani outlined the agenda in a Washington speech before a conservative think tank that sought to make clear distinctions between his vision and that of the Democrats, if not his rivals for the Republican nomination in 2008. The former New York mayor's proposed redefinition of the Republican platform would signal a shift away from any focus on social issues, on which Mr. Giuliani is much less ideologically aligned with the party.
Mr. Giuliani reserved his strongest criticism yesterday for Democrats, but he also said the government's handling of the war on terrorism had done "damage" to America's reputation abroad.
"We have to say to the rest of the world, ‘America doesn't like war,'" Mr. Giuliani said. "America is not a military country. We've never been a militaristic country," he added, saying national leaders have fallen into an "analytical warp" by defining the battle as a war on terrorism and not, as he deemed it, a "war of the terrorists against us."
Sounds a bit like "Morning in America" again, an approach that will help garner support for Giuliani among conservatives -- at least on vision. On policy, they will likely continue to challenge Giuliani, as the attendees at the Hoover Institution did yesterday. Giuliani apparently included a Q&A session as part of his presentation yesterday, and the Sun reported that some of the questions were "pointed" -- not surprising, given Rudy's policy differences on abortion and guns.
Russell Berman did not include the content of the questions except for one on Giuliani's foreign-policy experience. Opposition and Democratic activists have questioned the amount of experience the former Mayor could have, considering the local nature of his only public office. He gave a pretty good answer. As Mayor of New York, the position has responsibilities that outstrip some governors, especially in terms of population; Rudy had more citizens in his executive responsibility than does Tim Pawlenty now as our governor. Giuliani also talked about his dozens of international trips and meetings with heads of state or their senior staffs. He also runs an international consultancy, giving him free-market experience in foreign policy as well.
That fits well with his emerging campaign theme. He wants to emphasize a more libertarian approach for the Republican Party -- free markets and smaller government. School vouchers fit into this vision, as well as continuing support for public education. Health care reform is important, but the solutions must use free-market principles rather than top-down government control. It's a moderate policy that fits within a conservative vision, which could be a winning combination, especially in attracting moderates and independents.
Giuliani will have an opportunity to test this approach at CPAC, especially if he follows his Hoover appearance with a Q&A. He needs to engage conservatives directly in order to gain their trust, and it looks like he's made the decision to do so. This should make for an interesting appearance, one among several for Presidential candidates. Those who have not yet committed to CPAC had better not let Giuliani, Mitt Romney, and Mike Huckabee steal a march on their campaign.