NYT: Republicans Focusing on Rudy's Hero Status
The New York Times breaks down the current state of Rudy '08, and has seemingly caught on to the fact that Rudy's hero status from 9/11 and his toughness are (for now) rendering him largely impervious to attacks on social issues or ginned-up controversies from New York.
For many loyal Republicans — and more than a few independents and Democrats — his national security message seems to work, blotting out the central question facing his candidacy: whether a supporter of legal abortion, gay civil unions, immigrants’ rights and gun control; a thrice-married, Catholic New Yorker whose split with his second wife took place publicly and none too neatly, can win Republican presidential primaries and caucuses.
“I’m well to the right of Rudy on social issues,” said Sid Dinerstein, chairman of the Republican Party in Palm Beach County, Fla., after an appearance there by Mr. Giuliani two weeks ago. “But this is a man who, when it comes to dealing with bad guys, has infinite courage.”
In August, at a fund-raising dinner in Charleston for South Carolina’s very conservative Republican Party, Mr. Giuliani spoke about port security. When the party faithful had a chance to pose questions, they did not ask him about abortion or gays — only reporters did that.
At the end of the article is a point-counterpoint on whether Rudy can win. Larry Sabato's position can be boiled down to: "Republicans are stupid."
Sabato's assessment may have been perfectly accurate before 9/11. I don't think it flies anymore. Conservative activists, particularly in the blogosphere, are extremely up to date on Rudy's past positions, pre-2008 repositioning. And yet in most blog straw polls he holds on to the same vote share he gets in public polling.
“Pro-choice is the heart of his problem with Republicans, just as it always was, and it cannot be overcome,” Mr. Sabato said. Mr. Giuliani does well in polls “because the activists have no clue so far,” he said. “If they’ve heard this stuff, they’ve forgotten it.”
Mr. Sabato and other political analysts said that even if other contenders shied away from attacking Mr. Giuliani on abortion or gay rights, independent groups supporting those candidates would not. They might even try to undermine his security credentials, and cite the former mayor’s decision to put the city’s emergency operations center in the trade center.
But Frank Luntz, a Republican pollster, said the poll results are no illusion, and that no one should rule out Mr. Giuliani.
“The abortion issue will hurt him in Iowa, the gun control position will hurt him in New Hampshire, but both are less important than the character and the attributes of the man,” said Mr. Luntz, who did some work for Mr. Giuliani in the 1990’s but no longer works for campaigns. “In a senate race, they want to know where you stand on issues. In a presidential campaign, they want to know who you are.”
Every time we assume that 9/11 and national security won't matter as much in 2008, we are painfully reminded how that's not the case. I write this the same day as the North Korean nuclear test dominates the news.
Social issues may have dominated in the small-ball politics of the '90s and played a powerful role in George W. Bush's 2000 victory. But the world has changed. For the foreseeable future, the Republican Party is the party of national security, first and last. And that's why Rudy's toughness matters.
See Captain Ed for more.