Are Rudy Supporters "Shilling" for McCain?
That's what we Rudy supporters are doing, says Tony Fabrizio.
According to Fabrizio, anyone encouraging Rudy to run for the Republican nomination, and not make an independent bid for the White House, is basically gutting the Mayor's chances of being president, while enhancing the odds of a President McCain. Fabrizio believes that in a race involving McCain and Giuliani, it is McCain who will come across as the acceptable, consensus choice to "social and moral conservatives," not Rudy.
Needless to say, I disagree. Pretty much all of the empirical evidence that we've seen thus far shows 1) Rudy beating McCain in a two-man race among Republican primary voters and 2) Rudy doing better among those primary voters who self-identify as Republicans, while McCain does better with independents. Rudy, then, seems to be the candidate in the GOP's center of gravity, not McCain. It is Rudy who will have McCain to his left, and presumably Romney and others to his right, and who will attract the silent majority of regular Republicans and conservatives who just sort of vote on all issues pretty much equally and who sense that Rudy's "one of us."
But even taking the gut-check factor out of it, on which issues is McCain actually to the right of Rudy? I can think of very few. Rudy is a solid fiscal conservative, committed to low taxes, balanced budgets, and the introduction of market forces into government. Rudy is in favor of an aggressive GWOT. And Rudy has expressed his support for conservative judges, and has stated that he would appoint jurists like Roberts, Alito, and Scalia. I can only assume Fabrizio thinks that because McCain can put the label "pro-life" next to his name, that somehow moves the Arizona senator eons to the right of the Mayor, despite the practical impact of a Giuliani Administration on the issue of abortion being basically the same as any other mainstream Republican president due to his likely judicial picks. I think voters are much more sophisticated than this. But then again, I've never managed a presidential campaign, and Fabrizio has (he was the chief pollster for Dole '96).
Finally, I do want to touch on Fabrizio's call for Rudy to go indie. I think this is a horrible idea that totally misunderstands the Rudy temperment. If Rudy is anything, he's a team player. A leader. A quarterback, not a maverick or a loner. I'd say McCain fits the mold of a third-party candidate far better than Rudy does, as does Joe Lieberman on the other side of the aisle. If Rudy does get the opportunity to take the Oath of Office, I have no doubt he will go down in history as a great president. But make no mistake about it; he'll be a Republican.