Star power of Giuliani may win over social conservatives
Socialconservatives—contraryto conventionalwisdom—willseriously consider supporting the Republican presidential aspirations of Rudolph W. Giuliani even though he’s a prochoice,anti-gunNewYorker,political analysts and operatives say.
Republicans in the early primary states in the South and the West may disagreewithMr.Giuliani’sstanceon abortionandguncontrol,buttheyadmirehisresponsetotheSeptember11 attacks and, more importantly, they think he can win in November.
Scott Malyerck, executive director oftheRepublicanPartyinSouthCarolina, an early primary test, said votersrecognizeMr.Giulianiasastrong, decisiveleaderandadecisionmaker.
“John McCain and Mitt Romney havebeenworkinghardinSouthCarolina over the past year,” Mr. Malyerck said. “Even though Rudy Giuliani has not formally gotten his campaign up and going, he has been treated like a rock star across the state at rallies and fundraisers alike.”
Mr. Giuliani leads every other Republican — including Mr. McCain, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and outgoing Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney — in national and many state presidential preference polls of Republican voters.
Giuliani skeptics admit he’s their party’s top attraction for 2008, but some remain adamant in their opposition.
“IfRudyGiuliani—whoiswrong onallofthesocialissuesaswellasthe Second Amendment and is a blank slate on most other important issues such as judges, taxes and size of gov- ernment — is the Republican presidential nominee, I would expect a massexitofmostconservativesfrom theRepublicanPartyin2008,”warns Richard A. Viguerie, a prominent conservative-movement fundraiser and author.
“Which means if the Republican Party continues to move away from being the party of small government andtraditionalvalues,theywillcease to be a viable alternative to the Democratic Party, and a new conservative party will certainly arise to be their replacement.”
But for many others, Mr. Giuliani appearstoofferthekindofleadership forwhichtheyhavebeenlongingand the wattage to generate support.
“The most important quality in a candidate is the ability to project competence and leadership, and I thinkGiulianihashadthatreputation since 9/11,” says Tim Morgan, a socialconservativeandRepublicanNationalCommitteememberfromCalifornia who last week was named RNC treasurer.
“If you look deeper, beyond 9/11, as mayor in so many ways he turned thatcityaround—hehasasolidreputation,” says Mr. Morgan, who says he is not endorsing Mr. Giuliani.
Florida Republican Party Chairman Carole Jean Jordan said that wherever Mr. Giuliani appears, “he sucks all the oxygen out of the room.”
Mrs. Jordan, who said she has no horse in the 2008 race, recalled a fall dinner held by the Walton County Chamber of Commerce where Mr. Giuliani’s star power shined.
“Even the chef, the whole kitchen staff, came out and stood at attention — and the waiters, all the hotel employees,thelocalsheriff’sdeputies— becausetheyheardRudy,theheroof 9/11, was about to walk into the room,” she said, adding that he took the time to have his photo taken with every one of them.
Delegate-rich Florida will be important because that state — along with New Jersey, Michigan, Missouri and 11 other states — has moveditsprimaryuptoFeb.5,three days after South Carolina’s primary. Iowa’s Republican presidential caucuses, where Mr. Giuliani’s brand of Republicanism may find a cool welcome, are scheduled for Jan. 21, fol- lowedbyNewHampshire’sprimary on Jan. 28.
BecauseofMr.Giuliani’sappealto independent voters, some Democratsseehimasaseriousthreatinthe 2008 general election.
DemocraticpoliticalstrategistPaul Goldman says Mr. Giuliani is playing therebelrolethatMr.McCain—once theindependents’favorite—playedso effectively in 2000, when he won the New Hampshire primary and put a scare into the campaign of establishment favorite George W. Bush.
Mr. McCain has shed his “maver- ick”statusandisincreasinglybacked by the Republican establishment. A slew of former top Bush operatives areonthepayrolloftheunofficialMcCain 2008 campaign.
Veteran Republican strategist and longtimeGiulianiadviserFrankLuntz says the mayor’s leadership qualities matter more to Republican primary voters than specific issues do.
“That’s where Giuliani has an advantage over everybody else,” Mr. Luntz says. “He has managed a government in times of crisis — and done it successfully. No other candidatecansaythat.Theotherscanonly saywhattheywoulddo.Rudycansay what he did do and how he did it.”
Mr. Giuliani has lined up a team of veteran Republican operatives and supporters who say their man hasotherkeyadvantagesfor2008— and a record of overcoming political challenges.
“People doubted Rudy’s chances when he ran for mayor of New York in 1993 — Democrats outnumbered Republicans five or six to one,” says John Gross, who is treasurer of the presidential exploratory committee Mr. Giuliani formed in November.
“Once elected, he did what he was elected to do: dramatically reduced crimeandturnedthecityaround,reduced the welfare rolls,” says Mr. Gross, a Giuliani loyalist.
Sandy Pack, the chief financial officerforBush-Cheney‘04,hassigned on to play the same role for Mr. Giuliani’s exploratory committee. Also Mike DuHaime, the Republican National Committee’s political director and an associate of Republican NationalChairmanKenMehlman’s,has signedonaschairmanoftheGiuliani exploratory committee.