Ryan Sager Gets It
McCain agrees with the Religious Right on most things, but they hate him. Giuliani disagrees with the Religious Right on most things, but they (at least for now) love him.Sager is good enough to share with us some subscriber only polling data that bolsters our suspicions about where Rudy's support is coming from:
Who is supporting Giuliani vs. McCain?Giuliani the moderate leads amongst conservatives. McCain the conservative leads amongst moderates. I would say this is fairly convincing evidence that voters -- even primary voters -- value attributes over issues. Despite agreeing with them on a checklist of issues, McCain is widely distrusted among the conservative base because of his numerous apostasies and zig-zags dating back to his 2000 primary run. (If you think it's unpleasant now with W. and the base, wait till President McCain.)
There are some important ideological distinctions among the potential GOP candidates. Giuliani is known as a conservative on crime and national security, but supports abortion and gay rights. McCain has a reputation for being a "moderate" but has a mostly conservative voting record, particularly on economic and social issues. Other candidates are even further to the political right.
Given these differences, it is interesting to focus on candidate preferences according to Republicans' personal ideology.
Gallup finds some slight differences in the vote choice of "conservative" and "moderate" Republicans. Giuliani leads McCain by a 31%-to-26% margin among self-described Republican conservatives. By contrast, McCain has a slight edge over Giuliani among "moderate" Republicans, 38% to 33%. Neither of these leads is statistically significant given the margin of error associated with the small sample sizes of these subgroups.
Sager doesn't discount Giuliani, and basically confirms my operating assumption that if Rudy threads the needle right, he can keep the SoCons in his corner. It'll be difficult, but not impossible:
At least for the Republican primary, the question seems to be this: What will win out among conservative primary voters? Emotion (they like Giuliani) or cold, hard calculation (they can’t stand McCain, but he has the right positions)?Emotion or cold calculation? I wouldn't underestimate the power of emotion in politics: Reagan, W. on 9/11, and now Rudy.
Of course, there could be some other candidate to come and swoop in and grab the conservative vote. But no one’s gotten to it yet. And, amazingly, Rudy seems to have a pretty decent chance of locking that vote down early -- if he plays his cards right and develops the right policy platform.
It's a jump ball in '08, concludes Sager:
This is still a wide-open race, the most wide-open Republican primary since 1964 -- that’s how conservative movement historian Lee Edwards pegged it when I interviewed him for my book. Things are going to get really, really interesting.Yup! And things should prove especially interesting 'round these parts, since we're on board with the most misunderestimated candidate of the '08 cycle.
Make sure you pre-order Sager's book, The Elephant in the Room: Libertarians, the Christian Right, and the Battle for the Republican Party.