May 3, 2005


The Religious Right and Rudy (John Avlon, 5/03/05, Real Clear Politics)

In the mental chess game pundits and powerbrokers play in the run-up to 2008, one complicating factor has been accepted as conventional wisdom: Rudolph Giuliani, the leader of most Republican polls, is too centrist to be accepted by the religious right's rank and file.

That's why a comment by the founder of the Christian Coalition, the Reverend Pat Robertson, on ABC News's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" this past Sunday should send shockwaves through the Republican Party establishment and may signal the beginning of a healthy realignment in American politics.

In response to a question about whether religious conservatives would split off from the Republican Party if a moderate like Mayor Giuliani were nominated for president, Rev. Robertson quickly said, "I don't think so. Rudy is a very good friend of mine, and he did a super job running the City of New York. And I think he'd make a good president. I like him a lot. Although he doesn't share all of my particular points of view on social issues, he's a very dedicated Catholic. And he's a great guy."

This character endorsement is an important green light to a possible presidential run that some social-conservative political operatives were overconfidently whispering was dead on arrival. It is also a generous and timely reinforcement of Ronald Reagan's principle of the "big tent" by someone associated with the far right of the party. With even tacit support and an established comfort level with leaders of the Christian Coalition, the broad popular support for a Giuliani presidential campaign that already exists among Republicans and independents could be unstoppable. He could be the first Republican candidate since Ronald Reagan to win both New York and California on the way to winning the White House.

Rev. Robertson's comments represent the result of Mr. Giuliani's personal reaching out to other Republicans in addition to the halo effect from his leadership after the attacks of September 11 and subsequent honor as Time magazine's Man of the Year. These factors have made him a valuable celebrity surrogate for Republican candidates across the country. Without ever backing off his core principles, Mr. Giuliani has been a tireless good soldier for the Republican Party in the last two election cycles, and contributed considerably on the ground to their gains in Congress and the Senate. In the process, he has created personal loyalties in unexpected places and proven that this former New York City mayor can play nationally.

This is evident in events like an upcoming fund-raiser for longtime Christian Coalition leader and influential Republican operative Ralph Reed in his campaign for lieutenant governor of Georgia, where Mr. Giuliani has been asked to serve on the host committee. Apparently, association with Mr. Giuliani is an electoral asset even to a statewide candidate in the Deep South.

If you were just to assume they were all running and then rate their chances of getting the nomination, you'd likely have to go:

(1) Jeb Bush

(2) John McCain

(3) Rudy Giuliani

(4) Mitt Romney

(5) Condi Rice

(6) Bill Frist

Of course, were Rudy or Condi to replace Dick Cheney next year they'd vault to the top.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 3, 2005 12:08 PM

Jeb would have been President starting in 2000 if he had won the governorship in his first try. As it is, he and the party know it wouldn't look good for him to be the candidate in '08. He'll have to either wait or (more likely) accept that one presidency per Bush generation is enough.

I'd switch Rudy & McCain. Rudy has some fairly major issues to overcome with the base, most prominently his stand on life issues and his divorce, but he's got a few years to do the necessary groundwork (plus, I seem to recall a certain webpage proprietor recently stating that a Rudy presidency would be a disaster for the Republicans...). McCain wouldn't have a whole lot of friends among the party elite, plus we all know that Senators don't become Presidents.

You know who gets asked about running for President during every public appearance he makes these days? Zell Miller. I'd pick him today over any of your 6. He could run with Condi to head off the inevitable savaging he'd get from the press...

Posted by: b at May 3, 2005 12:32 PM

Lordy, what would the European sophisticates think of Zell!?

Posted by: Rick T. at May 3, 2005 12:38 PM

Zell can't organize IA and can't finish top 5 in NH. So he's done by the time you go South.

Posted by: oj at May 3, 2005 12:45 PM

Oh, I have no illusions that Zell will run. I'm just saying I'd prefer him to any of the 6 you have listed. And if McCain is the GOP nominee, I'm writing Zell in.

Posted by: b at May 3, 2005 1:14 PM

Preserve us from Jeb. I like the guy, but I don't think the nation will stand for another Bush so soon. Give it a term or two.

As for Rudy, two things 1) I've just been invited to wedding in which Rudy will be the best man. 2) I live in Iowa.

These items are not unconnected.

Posted by: H.D. Miller at May 3, 2005 1:27 PM

Rudy will come home on abortion. That's vaults him over the detestable McCain easy.

That only leaves his problematic personal life. Lucky for us Bill Clinton's tenure makes that less of an issue than it would have been in, say, 1992.

Go Rudy.

Personal note -- stood next to Rudy in a private box at the Houe of Blues Chicago record release party for Bernie Williams. Rudy was there to introduce Bernie and his band. There's some self-interest involved for me. Would be cool to say I hung wid da Prez. (nb: it wasn't a man-date.)

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at May 3, 2005 1:29 PM

I like the idea of Rudy. The Republicans need to get in play in New York, CA. as well as IL. MI. PA. His divorce etc. was when he was young and immature. Abortion really is mostly about the Judges he will nominate and I think he can easily give pro-life voters adequate assurances.

Posted by: h-man at May 3, 2005 1:42 PM

Without the last name baggage it would clearly be Jeb. Assuming he doesn't run the GOP looks pretty weak as each candidate has sizable flaws. So it may be the case where a VP candidate that offsets the President nominee pick's flaws will be needed. That said, if the economy/world are doing ok in '08 it should be good for the GOP as the Dems bench is even weaker (yes including Hillary).

Posted by: AWW at May 3, 2005 1:43 PM

Rice/Butler '08! (Not likely, but it'd drive the Demos nuts.)

Posted by: Mike Morley at May 3, 2005 1:56 PM

Baggage? They're GOP primaries. Michael Reagan would be a contender.

Posted by: oj at May 3, 2005 1:57 PM

The advantage the Democrats have at this point is that other than John Kerry, the Democrats know (or are resigned about) who their nominee will be. The Republicans will have a battle, unless you have a situation where Cheney steps down and a heir apparent is appointed VP.

As far as Rudy vs. anyone else, the media will be trying as hard as possible to toss kerosene onto the fire on the values issues, running here and there to find someone to blast Rudy's past family history or his stance on abortion. Once they find that person, no matter how obscure they are, they will e crowed the new leader of the GOP's fundamantalist wing and their word will be enshrined as the gospel for the 25 million or so other conservative Christian voters on the Republican side.

That doesn't necessarily mean the GOP voters both in the Christian conservative and the more moderate/secular wings won't be able to see through what the big media outlets are doing, but it will make it tough to avoid the press mantra (borrowing from the 1992 storyline) that the GOP wiill be a "divided party" by the time their convention rolls around while the Democrats are united behind the missus going into the fall campaign.

Posted by: John at May 3, 2005 2:03 PM

The media has very little impact on who wins GOP primaries.

Hillary is going to have a tougher challenge than most people think. Kerry may be a donkey's rump, but he will be nasty. And John Edwards will not hold back. Plus, can HRC really be denouncing abortion one day and then French-kissing MoveOn the next? I don't think so.

Posted by: jim hamlen at May 3, 2005 2:52 PM

They can make hay on Rudy all they want, love the sinner, hate the sin. And isn't he happier now?

Posted by: Sandy P. at May 3, 2005 4:43 PM

Jim --

The impact isn't so much designed to alter the primary result as it is to try and divide the party during the general election. That's why the media will be running over to Christian conservtives trying to get nasty quotes about Rudy, and then running back to the moderates and say "Did you hear what so-and-so said about your candidate..." It's an old tactic, but one that's never used when there's a battle between moderates and liberal on the Democratic side.

As for whether or not HRC can do two contradictory things at one time, the answer is yes, if the Democrats don't really believe she's sincere about the more conservative positions she takes and think she's just doing that to get them back into power. It's the same reason why no one said 'boo' to her husband 13 years ago over Sister Soljuah or Ricky Ray Rector,because they thought he was doing it just to win swing voters, and not because he actually believed in what he was doing.

Posted by: Jim at May 3, 2005 5:02 PM

The professional Left is smart enough to know that, but the MoveOn crowd will freak out (especially on the message boards) when she votes to confirm Janice Rogers Brown (or some similar act of heresy). And if David Rosen is convicted, Hillary will not be able to run, no matter how much distancing she does.

Posted by: jim hamlen at May 3, 2005 5:57 PM

The more ideologically pure in the MoveOn group will want Hillary written out of the party ... but as last year's Howard Dean campaign showed, their bark is louder than their bite, and outside of Howie himself, they have no big name challenger to the little lady on the left side of the party to gather funds for a national campaign (Gore? Boxer? Edwards might challenge Hillary, but it wouldn't be from the left, and a 2008 Kerry campaign would be run only for the benefit of late night comedians and their writing staffs).

I will agree on Rosen though: If he's convicted -- and if he gives up the goods on Hillary instead of pulling a Susan McDougal -- she is in a lot of trouble, though she may try to claim any court action in 2005 is "old news" and it's time to "move on" if she wins re-election in 2006. But it will make other players within the party more willing to go after her on the corruption issues which only Republicans currently are brave enough to mention.

(And, yes, that was me replying in the above post. Preview is your friend...)

Posted by: John at May 3, 2005 7:38 PM

So Jeb calling off the Florida Gov't from trying to prevent that 13 year old girl's abortion won't hurt him?

Posted by: AC at May 3, 2005 10:05 PM

Here are their negatives:

Jeb Bush is another Bush.

John McCain is too annoying.

Rudy Giuliani is too secular.

Mitt Romney is too liberal.

Condi Rice is too black and too female.

Bill Frist is too passive.

How about Mel Gibson? He is conservative, has national and international name recognition, and women like him.

Posted by: Vince at May 3, 2005 11:28 PM


Gibson opposed the war in Iraq and had nice things to say about Fahrenheit 9/11.

Your list speaks for itself. We have a candidate problem, and with Hillary das Butch von Buchenwald coming up to bat...did I mention we have a problem?

One possible scenario: Appoint Jeb Bush veep to replace Cheney, so voters will be acclimated to him by '08 and perhaps less likely to hold his last name against him.

People will badmouth Dubya for doing this, but so what? They badmouth him anyway.

Posted by: at May 4, 2005 1:50 AM

That's the strongest slate either party has ever offered in primaries.

Posted by: oj at May 4, 2005 7:22 AM

Giuliani is also soft on illegal immigration. So that and his secularism are just too much to take for the Republican primary. He was so great at crime fighting and such a born leader, you can't help but like him. McCain on the other hand, I would hold my nose and vote for him were he the nominee in the general.

I like Jeb the most, but his bigger problem is that he is not a first born son; check out stats on Presidents and nominees in Kevin Leman's "Birth Order Book".

Posted by: Emily B. at May 4, 2005 12:08 PM

McCain seems too insistent on going it alone or drawing attention to himself to actually accomplish anything. One could imagine a Muskie-like meltdown in New Hampshire as well.

Giuliani is my preferred candidate because he always was far more conservative than he had to be in order to hold NYC. He is nearly worshipped in the NY Suburbs, which are the key to winning NY, NJ and CT. He has weird baggage though, like having been married to his first cousin, and rooming with 2 gay guys while Donna 'the Termagant' Hanover occupied Gracie Mansion. The nonsense surrounding Kerik will also make a re-appearance when he runs against the Hildebeest.

Posted by: at May 4, 2005 2:10 PM

Kerik will have no effect - all the GOP needs to do is run the photos of Hillary hugging Mrs. Arafat. That never received the national attention it should have, and will stick to Hillary now that more Jewish voters are inclined to vote Republican.

Posted by: jim hamlen at May 4, 2005 3:17 PM


What is so strong about Mitt Romney and Bill Frist?

Posted by: Vince at May 4, 2005 8:30 PM

MA politicians win NH.

Frist isn't particularly strong but the only member of Congress who would fare better is McCain. The doctor shtick will work well for him.

Posted by: oj at May 4, 2005 8:36 PM