Responding to Drew Cline of the Manchester Union Leader...
What's in the water up in New Hampshire? It's the only place Rudy can't seem to make any headway. You've got Dick Bennett's ARG making up flimsy excuses for ragging on Rudy, citing activist scuttlebutt no one else seems to have heard about. You've got the otherwise solid Pat Hynes shilling for McCain. And you've got Drew Cline, editorial page editor of the pivotal Manchester Union Leader suggesting Rudy won't make it because... he's not strong on terrorism and national security (???). Is there anyone up there who hasn't been bought, influenced, or otherwise cajoled by McCain? With support like that, Mr. McCain-Feingold should be able to again nab 50% without breaking a sweat.
On his blog today, Cline rehashes the conventional wisdom argument against Rudy getting in. Oddly, he chooses to focus his first salvo on Rudy's national security credentials:
1. Unless we stop the bleeding in Iraq by then, the issue for 2008 will be foreign policy in general and the Iraq war in particular. I have a hard time believing that the average voter will say, “Look, I’m not concerned about the war. What is your policy on health care?” With that in mind, does anyone have any idea what a Giuliani Doctrine might look like? Does he have a foreign policy? Will GOP voters want as Commander in Chief someone whose highest elected office was mayor, and that many years ago?Is there anyone who is more viscerally molded in the public consciousness with 9/11 and the issue of global terrorism than Rudy Giuliani? Rudy not only witnessed terrorism -- he fought it firsthand, as the lead federal prosecutor in the murder of Leon Klinghoffer. When the United States of America needed someone to make the case against Zacarias Moussaoui, who did they call?
He has expressed support for the war in Iraq, but I think people are going to want a very specific vision for winning that war and the War on Terror. Will he be able to best McCain on those points? I’m not a McCain partisan, but I think that would be difficult.
What is McCain's involvement in this war beyond making speeches and casting votes -- one of which seemingly hampered our troops in dealing with enemy combatants? Aside from his stance on "torture," McCain indeed has a fine record on the war -- but the last election showed that Americans prefer a strong executive to a bloviating Senator to fight the War on Terror.
The bottom line is that no public figure besides Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Rice is more associated with the War on Terror than Rudy Giuliani -- not just in fact, but more importantly, in public perception.
If another candidate wins the pro-life vote, being pro-life doesn't matter as much in capturing the segment of the party that's indifferent or pro-choice. (Thinking about Novak's trifecta, in fact, I'm beginning to think Rudy's biggest challenge isn't abortion, but guns -- which obsess the libertarians Rudy badly needs.) And he's no better than McCain on foreign policy? Maybe not in the geeky policy checklist kind of way, but in terms of viscerally connecting with America's determination to beat the jihadists, he is superlatively better. Instincts and emotions trump all else in politics and this tends to render "balance sheet" type calculations like Cline's meaningless. Read the comments in places like RedState or Polipundit to get a sense of this: "Yes, I agree with McCain on X, Y, and Z, but I don't trust him. I trust Rudy." Attitudes like this tend to overwhelm everything else in electoral politics. And if Rudy pledges constructionist judges -- the kind that would overturn Roe and gut CFR -- we're even-stevens on social issues.
2. I don’t necessarily think a conservative will win the ‘08 nomination, but I think Giuliani will have a very hard time winning conservatives, who, after Bush, are desperate for a candidate who will represent them. Some other candidate will win the pro-life vote. That candidate (Romney? Allen?) will probably have a muscular foreign policy agenda, which Republicans will want. So it won’t be a matter of sacrificing Iraq for a President who is good on abortion and stem cell research. Pro-lifers will get both with the same candidate. Conservatives also tend to hold negative views of people with Giuliani’s personal baggage. And his opponents certainly will make sure that primary voters are well acquainted with his personal life.
Will conservatives forgive his positions on abortion and same-sex marriage? Perhaps, but in exchange for what? If he’s no better than McCain on foreign policy, and McCain is pro-life and thinks states should be allowed to ban same-sex marriage, then why go for Giuliani? There is McCain’s disdain for the First Amendment, but he tends to get a pass on that.
UPDATE: I forgot the most important point. Republicans want a conservative firebreather who'll represent them, unlike Bush, so they're gonna pick the guy who's leading the charge for Bush's un-conservative immigration plan, the issue that matters most to them?