Dave is a D.C. lawyer and blogger who is also following the race very closely. I really can't improve much on what he says here, which is too important not to reprint in full:
Maybe a Giuliani candidacy makes sense after all. Kelsey Grammer supports him. So does National Review's J-Pod. As I detailed in an earlier post, both McCain and Romney send Republican voters in the double-digits over to Hillary. Each hovers around 80 percent Republican support, far from GWB's whopping 93 percent of the GOP vote. Giuliani, on the other hand, garners between 85 and 90 percent Republican support in a matchup against Hillary. The good mayor also takes nearly 20 percent of Democrats and beats the New York senator by some ridiculous margin among independents. Yes, Rudy would lose a few dark-red voters in the deep south and west, but those states are going to go Republican anyway. The net gain Giuliani would experience nationally due to increasing the GOP margin from 2004 among Democrats and independents would yield an electoral sweep. All of the electoral-rich light-blue states filled with ethnic Catholics and Reagan Democrats --- Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Minnesota --- would go for Rudy, as would New Hampshire. And Rudy would have a real shot at winning Oregon, Washington, New Jersey, and Delaware, states that showed signs of a weakened blue hue in 2004. Giuliani's just the kind of Republican that could turn those states red, if only for one election. I suspect a Rudy/Hillary contest would have a result similar to the Bush/Dukakis matchup of 1988: a 7-10 point win for the Republican coinciding with a 40-state landslide in the electoral college.
The question of why nearly 90 percent of Republicans are sticking by the mayor despite his views on cultural matters is one that needs to be answered. Do these Republicans know about Rudy's views on issues like abortion? I have a hard time believing they don't; it's one of the things the MSM loves to remind us about Rudy. Perhaps Rudy just gets along so well with the GOP base that conservatives assume that any attempt to lead them would result in a conversion on the big social issues, like abortion, gay marriage, the Second Amendment, and immigration. The big question now is whether Rudy is willing to do the heavy lifting on these issues in order to appease a base that wants to vote for him. And the even bigger question is whether Rudy will run; he's been doing very little with regards to a presidential campaign, while McCain's been doing a lot.
Let me take a stab at this one, because it's a source of great puzzlement to media and politico types who can't figure out why pro-lifers would be so accepting of a pro-choice candidate.
First, issues aren't everything. In Presidential elections especially, people vote on likeability, attributes, and broad values (not just moral values). Joe Klein comes at this from a different perspective, but to get the general gist of this, read his latest, Politics Lost.
For decades, Democratic consultants have been honing their candidates' issue checklists, maximizing opportunities for near-total agreement with the electorate. Yet they keep losing elections because they keep nominating candidates who are too wonkish, insincere and out of touch. These broad strokes are what voters pay attention to, and they overwhelm the specifics every time.
Because Rudy has such an established persona, issues -- even hot-button issues -- are secondary to this appeal. For further proof, look no further than McCain 2000 -- how could liberals support someone who was in many ways a lifelong conservative? It wasn't cognitive dissonance so much as the fact that McCain liked to pick fights
with other conservatives. Attributes -- being a maverick, not towing the party line -- overwhelmed the issues.
Beltway types tend to look at Rudy and instantly think of Arlen Specter's asterisk of a presidential campaign in '96. Specter was and is a pro-choice, pro-gay rights Republican who made no bones about it in seeking the Presidential nomination. But aside from his grilling of Anita Hill, Specter was an unknown -- and voters had no other way to evaluate him aside from his stated positions on issues, which were anathema to the base. This is definitely not the case with Rudy.
As Rudy is defined more in terms of candidate than national hero, his social positions could well take center stage. Though not as pessimistic as J-Pod (who advocates an abortion flip-flop), it's clear that Rudy cannot run on a Specter-like crusade to move the party to the center.
To maintain his sky-high favorables among Republicans, Rudy must make clear that while personally pro-choice, he would do no harm to the pro-life, pro-family cause -- signaling a willingness to sign any piece of Federal legislation on life that could come up during his term (he's gotta flip on PBA). This is not a position without precedent. Look at Harry Reid, who is personally pro-life, but who falls in line with the Caucus when the issue comes up, opposing both Roberts and Alito.
Also, it doesn't bear repeating for regular readers of this blog, but Rudy is looking pretty good when compared to McCain. Again, it has nothing to do with issues. It has to do with the fact that with McCain (R-Himself), you always have to look over your shoulder. Will he take a strong stand for conservative judges, or pull another G-14 stunt, or pay lip service to conservatives while deep-sixing the nomination of William Haynes? You simply never know. Rudy is helped by his reputation for taking clear positions -- even when you don't agree with him.
Even if there is a big brouhaha over the social issues, Rudy's opponents will have to move mountains to dislodge the heroic -- and frankly Presidential -- persona he has earned for himself.