December 12, 2005


N.Y.'s Favorite Republicans: John McCain and Rudy Giuliani seem like the kind of GOPers city Dems could get behind—but one’s pro-life and the other can’t win and won’t run. (John Heilemann, New York Magazine)

[T]he emergence of McCain and Giuliani as front-runners is about more than numbers, name recognition, or wanton starf***ing. It’s about a surge of receptiveness to both of them on the diamond-hard right and in the Republican Establishment. It’s about the denizens of Bushworld whispering that they’re now copacetic with McCain: “As soon as he stood up and saluted the ticket a year ago, the fences were mended,” one Bushie tells me. [...]

[I] told McCain that the infatuation with him by countless liberals—barely a day goes by in New York without some habitual Democrat telling me he would consider voting for McCain against Clinton—struck me as hard to fathom.

McCain, without missing a beat, replied, “They don’t know me well enough.”

We both laughed at that, but he wasn’t entirely kidding, for McCain has always been more conservative than either the left or the right wishes to admit. A recent piece in The Nation captured the point concisely: “In 2004 he earned a perfect 100 percent rating from Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum and a 0 percent from NARAL. . . . He has supported school vouchers, a missile defense shield, and private accounts for Social Security. Well before 9/11 McCain advocated a new Reagan doctrine of ‘rogue-state rollback.’” [...]

McCain now seems determined to pursue the path that [David Keene, head of the American Conservative Union] suggests he should have the first time around. Throughout our conversation, he invokes Reagan’s name repeatedly, along with the two issues that have served as the basis for the thaw between him and the right: his hawkish stance on the Iraq war and his crusade against federal spending. By letting McCain adopt a posture at once conservative and anti-Establishment, the latter is especially clever: “I’m just beside myself about this spending—I can’t tell you how awful it is,” he says. “I haven’t left the Republican Party; the party has abandoned the Republican principle of fiscal discipline.” [...]

“He’s trying to run from a much more mainstream Republican posture while maintaining a patina of independence,” says Keene. “He doesn’t need to make the right love him; he just needs to defang the right so it can’t hurt him. I think he’s in good shape—he’s definitely the front-runner.” [...]

[N]o one doubts that Giuliani’s popularity is real and sincerely felt. Yet among political professionals there is something approaching a consensus that of the two men, he occupies the far weaker position. To start with, McCain has run a national campaign before—a considerable asset. McCain can also lay claim to the “it’s my turn” mantle of seniority in the presidential sweepstakes—another important advantage in a party of primogeniture.

Worse for Giuliani, because he and McCain have the same set of strengths—heroism, national-security cred—and appeal to the same moderate and independent base of voters, it will make it devilishly difficult for Hizzoner to portray himself as a McCain alternative. As Keene puts it, “If McCain is the problem, Rudy isn’t the solution.”

Even if McCain weren’t present in the race, Giuliani would have his share of obstacles to surmount. Unlike McCain, who can at least lay credible claim to being conservative on many social issues, Giuliani is something close to a bona fide social liberal: pro–gay rights, pro–gun control, thrice married, etc. Can some of these issues be fudged, rendering Giuliani modestly more palatable to the red-meat-eating right? Sure. But one of them cannot.

“It’s simply inconceivable that there would be a pro-choice nominee in today’s party,” says Wittman. “It’s too central a component in holding the entire Republican coalition together. Before he takes another step, Giuliani has to figure out how to deal with that. And I don’t see how he does it, other than changing his position—which raises its own set of issues altogether. It’s truly an impossible hurdle for him to get over.”

All of which leads Keene to a stark conclusion: “Rudy has to know that his best day will be the day he announces—it’ll be all downhill from there. And Rudy is no fool. So I frankly don’t believe that, in the end, he’ll run for president.”

If Jeb isn't interested, the Mayor is a perfectly reasonable second choice for VP.

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 12, 2005 3:55 PM

interesting that they don't report on the number of times McCain has been married. and a campaign that craps out after three states is hardly nation wide.
the intersting point (to me) was the mention of democrats that would vote for these guys over hillary. given the iffy health of both of them this might all be noise and smoke.

Posted by: uh huh at December 12, 2005 4:23 PM

The source for the fact that conservatives won't support Rudy is Marshall Wittman! He was a McCain supporter in 2000 and is no longer a GOPer at all, he works for the DLC. He is always cited by the NYT and other liberal MSM papers as the expert on conservatives. So, pardon my lack of respect for his opinion.

Yes, Rudy's personal history and his pro-abortion history are problems but he can certainly have a limited "come to Jesus moment on abortion" satisfactory to most and McCain hardly has a clean marriage record himself.

McCain is certainly the favorite but Rudy is not dead on arrival, he has a good chance.

Since Rudy passed on senator and governor, why would he pass on president? If he wasn't running for president, why not governor where he would have cleaned Spitzer's clock?

Posted by: Bob at December 12, 2005 4:51 PM

Wow! So a couple of GOP-lites and almost-Dems might get some support in "the city." Well, that ought to sew the election right up, we won't even have to bother counting the votes, will we?

The sub-headline for this should be: "In other obvious news, in case you missed it, the sun rose in the east this morning."

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at December 12, 2005 4:53 PM

Why the push for McCain all of a sudden.

He's the nominee, I'm staying home.

Posted by: Sandy P at December 12, 2005 6:06 PM

Sorry we don't need another grandstander-in-chief. The Clinton years were enough for me.

It comes down to trust. I don't trust McCain.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at December 12, 2005 6:29 PM

The "push" is to get Hillary elected. If McCain gets nominated (a big if, IMHO), the media will dump him in favor of Hillary. That will ensure no real conservative will become the next President.

That is the gameplan for the Left. They will back McCain for the nomination, afterwhich Chrissy Matthews and his pals will abandon the Arizona senator.

Posted by: obc at December 12, 2005 6:33 PM

The media don't matter.

Posted by: oj at December 12, 2005 6:42 PM


Push? It's just reality.

Posted by: oj at December 12, 2005 7:12 PM

The stupid party once again.

Posted by: Sandy P at December 12, 2005 9:00 PM

Sandy P:

Believe me, I understand the impulse, but the need to stop Hillary is absolutely paramount. Please keep that firmly in mind.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at December 12, 2005 10:44 PM

to fear hillary is to lack confidence in the American people. if she is elected then so be it.
try and keep in mind that she is a creature of the msm and has no constinuency save the janet reno democrats.

Posted by: keep it together at December 12, 2005 11:54 PM

Afraid of Hillary? Write your senators to get the Barret report ,in full, released.

Posted by: Genecis at December 13, 2005 9:44 AM

Some of the lawyers who comment here, why can't we petition for release of the Barrett Report through the Freedom of Information Act?

Posted by: erp at December 13, 2005 1:32 PM

the documents aren't even classified and the agency in charge won't say why they aren't being released.

Stephen Hayes has a lot to say about this issue.

Posted by: noam chomsky at December 13, 2005 2:50 PM