Does Team Rudy Read This Blog?
I don't have any solid indication they do, but this Jason Horowitz bit in the Observer seems to indicate that some of our ideas are already having an impact. I quote in full because it's too good not to:
A few days ago this pro-Giuliani blog laid out an intriguing blueprint for the former mayor to follow as a way of getting around his inconvenient position on abortion rights and make it through a Republican primary.
One of the basic ideas (and Rudyblog has a much lengthier explanation here) that Giuliani shouldn't try to hedge on his pro-life position, but could seek to find common ground with social conservatives on abortion by advocating for strict constructionist judges. If those judges happen to find Roe v Wade unconstitutional, the thought goes, so be it.
In the course of reporting for the paper this week, I asked Tony Carbonetti [Rudy's right hand man] what he thought of the idea. As it turned out, he approves.
"He has a record of supporting conservative judges and appointing conservative judges here in New York," said Carbonetti, a senior Rudy advisor. "As with any chief executive he already has a record and anyone can look at that record."
Carbonetti also said that Giuliani has never stopped being himself -- "What you see is what you get" -- no matter how conservative the crowd he addresses.
But of course, if Giuliani can keep the focus on security issues and away from abortion, as he did during his trip to Illinois last week, so much the better.
Emphazing conservative judges is an idea of long and good standing that predates my abortion piece or even the creation of this blog. Rudy expressed his support for strict constructionist judges in August, and before (though indirectly) with the nominations of Roberts and Alito. What this confirms is that touting conservative judges is going to be part of the strategy. Good.
I'll also call everyone's attention to this second item from a Seattle alt paper that shows that Rudy may be moving on guns:
Speaking to a group of reporters at the Sheraton Hotel downtown, where he was hosting a $1,000—$2,100-a-plate fundraiser for McGavick on Monday, October 9, Giuliani said this: "I don't think [the assault-weapons ban] is one of the most critical issues right now." ...
Well, here's how Giuliani answered my question: "The assault-weapons ban is something I supported in the past." Since he supports McGavick now, I guess "special-interest politics"—or more aptly, partisan politics—have swept aside what he once saw as a matter of "life or death."
Combined with Rudy's full-throated support for marriage, we are seeing a clearly telegraphed signal from the Giuliani camp to do no harm on the issues that distance the Mayor from many Republican primary voters. You won't hear Rudy touting why he's pro-choice, or explaining his gun control positions from the past ad nauseam.
Waving off some of these questions is the appropriate thing to do now, in 2006. Now is not the time to roll out any major repositioning or to make news with new look social issue rhetoric. It'll just get drowned out in 2006 coverage, and place Rudy in the fray too soon.
What we should be seeing in 2007, however, is a concerted effort to develop some positive messaging around his positions on life and guns that gives wavering conservative supporters something solid to hang their hat on. Something along the lines of the other non-judge suggestions on the abortion checklist, though I'm not as presumptous to say that's the final word.
The abortion debate has changed since 2000, when Rudy last had to weigh in on these issues. Activist court decisions in other areas have shined an unfavorable light on Roe-like activism. The number of abortions has steadily diminished, highlighting the things we can do under current law to solve the problem. One good example is this Washington Post on the effectiveness of "life centers" that offer women sonograms of the babies they are thinking of aborting. Many of them get Federal funding, without the hue and cry normally associated with other outrages against "choice." I could easily see a pro-choice candidate embracing more federal funding for life centers as a common-sense solution. (The flip side: The Bush Administration has quietly approved "Plan B," and South Dakota pro-lifers are even touting it in referendum ads.) The point is this. With these new developments, there are many blanks in Rudy's position, and he has the opportunity to fill them in ways that lean towards life, while maintaining his underyling position.
I agree with the Rudy critics that Rudy won't be able to avoid these issues forever. He'll have to acknowledge their importance. He'll have to give pro-lifers a solid reason not to vote against him that involves convincing people why he will do nothing to threaten the values of the people who elected him. I suspect the answer here is the equivalent of Senator Arnold Vinick's marathon press conference at the San Andreo nuclear plant. Answer every question, and do it early. Amplify what you need to amplify, change what you need to change, reiterate what you need to reiterate. So when the attack ads start rolling, it's old news and pro-lifers have already accepted Rudy as an unofficial member of the family.
The intent here is not go all alarmist. I say this because I believe it's a win/win. If he gives pro-lifers convincing reasons he's not a threat, the nomination is his. Rudy's stuck with the same underlying position, "what you see is what you get," and that's ok, because that's the Rudy brand. But Mitt Romney's experience shows that Republican primary voters will give you wide latitude do what you need to do to on social issues. He was as pro-choice as the sky is blue in 2002 and now he's touted as the social conservative savior.
Likewise, conservatives are handing Rudy a life-raft on judges and federalism, and he should take it.