Dave, based on your two earlier posts, we agree on at least two things: 1) The terrorism/national security issue will prove crucial in 2008. 2) Giuliani is the best-positioned Republican on this issue. I will not attempt to deny that Giuliani has taken liberal stances on many (if not most) social issues, and that for some social conservatives this makes him simply an unacceptable candidate. But, given his advantage on national security, he doesn’t have to be the ideal social conservative candidate. His much narrower task is to win over some social conservatives and prevent an all out revolt against his candidacy by those who don’t like him. I think this is achievable.
Before breaking it down issue by issue, it’s worth pointing out that there’s a lot that Giuliani can do to soften social conservatives opposition to him. Aside from his leadership during 9/11 and bona fides on the terrorism issue, he is unlike any politician in that he doesn’t speak out of both sides of his mouth. Whether you agree or disagree with Giuliani, you’ll never have any doubt where he stands on a given issue. When he takes a stand, he’ll explain exactly why he took it. As mayor, he would face down the New York media in hostile press conferences without apology. In 1999, Giuliani cut off the Brooklyn Museum of Art’s public funding and sought to evict it when an exhibition featured a portrait of the Virgin Mary smeared with elephant dung. For those who aren’t from New York, it’s hard to express what an incredibly gutsy stance this was to take in an ultra-liberal city that loves its publicly subsidized art.
Continuing on the theme of what can soften opposition to a Giuliani candidacy, I would point to the spending issue. Now, I know this is not a social issue, but I think that many social conservatives are also very concerned about runaway government spending. Giuliani could run on a platform of spending cuts, given his reputation as being a tough leader as well as the history of the budget wars during his time as mayor. No, this wouldn’t win over the most hardened social conservatives, but (combined with national security) it could make Giuliani more palatable. If he can convince conservatives that he will restrain spending and be tough on the War on Terror, it will be easier for them to swallow his positions on social issues.
Okay, so those are a few examples of what Giuliani can do to soften opposition, but Dave’s question still deserves an answer: “how will Giuliani answer for his greatest liabilities in a Republican primary?”
Immigration: Giuliani can draw from his experience as crime fighting mayor and make a vow to secure the borders and improve documentation so that we know who is actually in the country. He’ll be pro-legal immigration and will support something along the lines of a guest-worker program. This will be seen as amnesty to many conservatives, but other than Tom Tancredo, I don’t see other Republican candidates moving that far to the right of Bush on immigration.
Abortion: Giuliani can say that he’ll support judicial nominees that respect the constitution, in the mold of Scalia, Thomas, etc. While McCain is pro-life, he clearly has other problems with conservatives. Romney will have to overcome statements such as this in 1994:
“I believe that Roe v. Wade has been the law for 20 years, that we should sustain and support it, and I sustain and support that law and the right of a woman to make that choice. And my personal beliefs, like the personal beliefs of other people, should not be brought into a political campaign.”
Or this in 2002:
To answer your question Dave, yes, perhaps people will believe that Romney’s change was sincere, but I’m highly skeptical given that his change only occurred once he no longer had to face reelection in Massachusetts. Either way, all of Romney’s past statements make it easier for Giuliani to overcome the statements that he made when running for mayor of New York.
Family matters: Yes, Giuliani has had three marriages and a very public, messy divorce. There’s not much he can do about this other than appear happy with his current wife. Also, not to excuse him, but his situation is different than Clinton’s in several respects. Clinton lied directly to the American people, first about Gennifer Flowers and then about Monica Lewinsky (the latter under oath). Also, Clinton took advantage of a young intern, whereas Giuliani was estranged from his wife and became involved with a mature, professional woman. But, either way, there’s no doubt that Giuliani’s personal background will turn off some voters. I just don’t see it as a deal breaker.
Gay marriage: Giuliani doesn’t support gay marriage, but he does support civil unions and would oppose a federal marriage amendment (which McCain voted against). I think Romney has effectively positioned himself to the right of Giuliani on this issue.
Guns: Giuliani clearly supported gun control as mayor and won’t be the NRA’s candidate, that’s for sure. However, McCain has his own problems on guns, because his disregard for the First Amendment on McCain-Feingold has made conservatives nervous about whether he would be protective of Second Amendment rights. Also, Romney has expressed support for the federal assault weapons ban, so I think he’s just as vulnerable on this issue.
So, to sum up, Giuliani will clearly not be the first choice of conservatives who vote primarily on the issues discussed above. However, given his strength on national security and other attributes, I think he’ll be able to win over some social conservatives, and placate enough others, to capture the nomination (especially because his chief rivals will encounter their own problems with conservatives).
P.S. Sorry Wlady for the long post!