More Rudy in NH

My full account of Rudy Giuliani’s trip to NH is now up on our main site. My analysis was based on speaking with dozens of Republican activists in attendence, of which only a few had bad things to say about the former mayor. I quoted two of his critics in the piece.

Meanwhile, Kevin Rennie, who covered the event for the Hotline, felt the speech was a misfire. McCainiac Patrick Hynes was a little more generous. Jonathan Martin has a good wrap of Giuliani’s trip here.

The Candidate

MANCHESTER, N.H.– Many skeptics continue to question whether Rudy Giuliani is serious about making a run for the White House, but it was abundantly clear on Saturday that he had come to Manchester for more than the sub-freezing temperatures.

Addressing over 500 activists at the New Hampshire Republican Party’s annual meeting as part of a two-day swing through the state, Giuliani sketched the broad outlines of what looks like a presidential run. Sounding at times like a motivational speaker, Giuliani cautioned against cynicism and pessimism in the wake of November’s election results and challenges in the ongoing War on Terror. The message especially resonated with the audience in this critical primary state, where the Republican Party just lost control of both chambers of the legislature for the first time since the 1870s.

“The best way we remain safe and we retain our freedom…is remaining on offense, remaining strong and not becoming weak in a time of pressure,” Giuliani said in a line that drew the biggest applause from the crowd at the Palace Theater.

In a preview of his emerging campaign theme — “Proven Leadership” — Giuliani vowed that “when I promise you things, if I do, when I do, as I do, I’ll promise them because I’ve done them before.”

Drawing on his background transforming New York City as mayor, he elaborated that, “When I say to you that we should reduce taxes to stimulate an economy, I’ll say it to you because I did it, and I saw it work. When I say we have to bring peace and security…I’ll say that to you because I saw that happen in New York, and I made it happen. I did it.”

While that is all well and good, the question on the minds of all political observers is whether the adoration Giuliani earned as a successful mayor and inspired leader on September 11 will translate into victories in Republican primaries in which social views often play a dominant role.

In the speech, Giuliani gave some early clues as to how he may handle the biggest obstacle facing his candidacy. He emphasized the “basic core principles” that Republicans agree on — individual freedom, fiscal responsibility, and an aggressive war on terrorism — and argued that nobody will agree with a candidate 100 percent of the time. Rather than reverse himself on hot button issues such as abortion and gay rights, Giuliani seems likely to argue that in these perilous times it is more important to elect the best leader than to apply rigorous litmus tests on individual issues.

Whether such a strategy will ultimately prove successful remains to be seen, but those pundits who write off Giuliani’s chances would have gotten a different impression talking with active New Hampshire Republicans who listened to the former mayor’s speech.

“I’d be classified as a social conservative, pro-gun, anti-abortion, all of that, but Giuliani gave a great speech,” said Paul Mirski, a former state representative from a Grafton district who was defeated in November’s Democratic tidal wave. “I think the Republicans, including me, could probably follow him and support him for the presidency.”

Kevin Smith of Litchfield, who works for the state’s division of juvenile justice, volunteered for the Giuliani campaign even though he considers himself more socially conservative than the former mayor.

“I think he’s going to appeal to conservative Republicans more than people think he’s going to,” Smith said. “A lot of friends in my conservative circles are also supporting Giuliani…Like Rudy said, you’re not going to agree with every candidate 100 percent of the time. I think on the issues that matter most to people, growing the economy, healthcare, fighting the War on Terror, putting people to work…he’s very conservative.”

Tom Kaczynski Jr., a party delegate, came to the meeting with his father from Wakefield, New Hampshire. Both of them are pro-life conservatives who had intended to support Mitt Romney, but after hearing Giuliani speak, they’re not so sure.

“I thought that was a really inspiring speech he gave today, and I know from personal experience doing business in New York how he cleaned that city up during his reign as mayor,” said Kaczynski Jr., who is in the poultry business with his father. “On September 11 there was an attack on us. The man was right there, he saw some of his friends dying, and he persevered.”

His father said that “Before today, I had no opinion on Giuliani, and he impressed me.”

To be sure, not everybody was wowed by “America’s Mayor.” Cliff Newton, a former state representative, described the speech as just “okay,” saying that he saw Romney speak in September, and found him more energized.

Gary Hopper, a former state representative who is still politically active, took issue with Giuliani’s prescription for the Republican Party.

“The broad tent that Giuliani speaks of is what got us into trouble to begin with,” Hopper said. “The reason we lost is because the Second Amendment people, the conservatives, the pro-life people, the people who will hold signs for you on a cold November day were gone, they stayed home.”

New Hampshire voters are used to getting a lot of face time with individual candidates and they pride themselves on closely examining all of the contenders before making up their minds. Most people in attendance on Saturday remain uncommitted, but even those who support other candidates acknowledged Giuliani’s potential in the state, especially given that New Hampshire has an open primary system that allows independents to vote for candidates in either party.

Independents helped propel John McCain to victory in the Granite State in 2000, and he has maintained a solid organization here. His exploratory committee hosted a post-meeting reception at the nearby Merrimack Restaurant featuring Utah Governor Jon Huntsman. However, a lot has changed in seven years years, with indications that McCain has lost support among independents, while campaign finance reform has rankled conservatives. Romney, meanwhile, has aggressively hired talent in the state and locked up key endorsements.

Thomas Rath, the just departed Republican National Committeeman from New Hampshire, has already endorsed Romney. But he conceded that Giuliani “has a brand. He has a pre-sell,” referring to the aura that has surrounded Giuliani since the September 11 attacks. “People haven’t forgotten that. He will get a longer look than some might, because of how people perceive him. That will get him in the door, into the living room, but then he has to sell.”

Should Giuliani ever make it to the White House, this may go down as the weekend that he morphed into a presidential candidate.

Manchester Mayor Frank Giunta, who met with Giuliani privately before the address, said Giuliani didn’t disclose to him whether he had made a decision to run, but observed that “it certainly sounds like he’ll be back.”

Rudy in NH

I spent Saturday in Manchester, NH where Rudy Giuliani was the keynote speaker at the annual meeting of the Republican State Committee. I plan to write a longer piece on this for our main website on Monday, so I don’t want to go into too much detail here. But the bottom line is that the speech was very well received, and after speaking extensively to NH Republican activists, it became clear to me that the primary is very much in play for Rudy, and social issues, while an obstacle, will not be a deal breaker for him here. The closest thing I found to a consensus view was that it’s very early, voters want to get to know each of the candidates a lot better before making a decision, but the door is definitely open for Giuliani. It also became clearer that Rudy is unlikely to flip flop on social issues, emphasizing the things that Republicans agree on –fiscal discipline, cutting taxes, personal responsibility, national defense, staying on offense against terrorism. He acknowledged that conservative voters may not agree with him on every issue, but nobody agrees with any candidate 100 percent of the time. He also sounded very much like a candidate, saying, “when I promise you things, if I do, when I do, as I do, I’ll promise them because I’ve done them before,” and then boasting about his accomplishments as mayor.

Obama and the Black Vote

The Washington Post article that Dave mentioned below follows a similar piece in the Politico yesterday in demonstrating that black support for Obama’s presidential run, far from being a given, may be tepid at best. The Post cites a poll showing that black Democrats prefer Hillary Clinton over Obama by a 3:1 margin, which compares to her 2:1 margin among white Democrats. Al Sharpton, who is still mulling another presidential run, has lamented that none of the Democratic candidates are representing an “urban agenda,” and, in what was interpreted as a swipe at Obama, he said, “Right now we’re hearing a lot of media razzle-dazzle. I’m not hearing a lot of meat, or a lot of content. I think when the meat hits the fire, we’ll find out if it’s just fat or if there’s some real meat there.”

This could actually be a good thing for Obama, especially in the general election. The only way race will really hinder Obama’s ambitions is if he’s perceived as the “black” candidate rather than a mainstream candidate for all Americans. So, the more distance there is between Obama and Al Sharpton, the better it will be for Obama’s long-term goals.

Rudy, the Conservative

Steve Malanga makes the case:

Far from being a liberal, he ran New York with a conservative’s priorities: government exists above all to keep people safe in their homes and in the streets, he said, not to redistribute income, run a welfare state, or perform social engineering. The private economy, not government, creates opportunity, he argued; government should just deliver basic services well and then get out of the private sector’s way. He denied that cities and their citizens were victims of vast forces outside their control, and he urged New Yorkers to take personal responsibility for their lives. “Over the last century, millions of people from all over the world have come to New York City,” Giuliani once observed. “They didn’t come here to be taken care of and to be dependent on city government. They came here for the freedom to take care of themselves.” It was that spirit of opportunity and can-do-ism that Giuliani tried to re-instill in New York and that he himself exemplified not only in the hours and weeks after 9/11 but in his heroic and successful effort to bring a dying city back to life.

As they say, read the whole thing.

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Giuliani Skeptics

The new Politico has a  story out today quoting several skeptics who doubt that Rudy Giuliani will actually run for president, arguing that he's displaying the same attitude that he did in 2000, when he seemed to be dragging his feet in running for Senate against Hillary Clinton before ultimately dropping out.  But I think those doubters are overlooking one aspect of his personality  that will likely make his decision different this time around: his  big ego. Giuliani, for better or worse, needs to be  running the show.  A lot of people in Washington were shocked in 1983 when Giuliani left his post as No. 3 man in the Reagan Justice Department to take  the seemingly inferior post of  U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York. But as prosecutor, he built his own fiefdom, and  became a media fixture through high profile mafia and  white collar crime cases. The position  ultimately propelled him into the mayoralty, in  which he exercised great power over New York City. Being a Senator would have made him  1 of 100,  and he  wouldn't have  had the  oppourtunity to be the head honcho or  utilize his skills as a leader in an executive capacity.  But obviously, given his need to be calling the shots, it's easy to see the appeal to him of being the President.

Also, as far as the 2000 race, it's worth remembering that when he dropped out, Giuliani had been diagnosed with prostate cancer. Anybody who has a friend or family member who has undergone treatment for this understands how mentally, emotionally, and physically draining the process can be. So, it's not surprising that he would decide he couldn't undergo treatment, remain mayor, and run a high-profile Senate campaign against a sitting first lady.

(Ben Smith co-authored the Politico story, and he was the same reporter who disclosed the leaked Rudy campaign memo that caused a stir earlier this month. Politco has now posted the entire memo online, and Smith offers a guide to the document here.)

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Re: Webb’s Leg Up

I actually thought his delivery was pretty smooth. My problem with the response is that he focused on what has gone wrong in Iraq, but did not respond to President Bush’s challenge–namely, explain how we deal with the aftermath of a withdrawal. Okay if Webb ultimately believes in withdrawing the troops, but at this point in the debate he needs to at least entertain the biggest counterargument to such a policy: what about the disasterous consequences of leaving in defeat?

State of the Union

President Bush did about as well as could be expected under the circumstances, and obviously there were no big surprises. To me, one of the key parts of the speech, which probably won’t get much attention, was:

Our success in this war is often measured by the things that did not happen. We cannot know the full extent of the attacks that we and our allies have prevented, but here is some of what we do know: We stopped an al Qaeda plot to fly a hijacked airplane into the tallest building on the West Coast. We broke up a Southeast Asian terrorist cell grooming operatives for attacks inside the United States. We uncovered an al Qaeda cell developing anthrax to be used in attacks against America. And just last August, British authorities uncovered a plot to blow up passenger planes bound for America over the Atlantic Ocean.

Cynics may doubt how serious these plots were, or see it as part of a Bush strategy to play off of people’s fears. But I think it’s worth noting this because any future president will also face the same political problem with fighting terrorism. The heavy costs of fighting this enemy are clear, but the successes cannot be measured as easily as in past conflicts. We are not fighting a war based on gaining territory and forcing our enemy to formally surrender, but to protect innocent Americans from being killed in terrorist attacks. Bush has succeeded in the sense that there have been no terrorist attacks on American soil since 9/11. While one conclusion could conceivably be that Bush’s policies have been effective, as time goes by and the cost of fighting goes up, people start to conclude that either the terrorist threat isn’t that big of a deal in the first place, or acknowledge terrorism is a threat, but believe that we can alter Bush’s policies and still be able to thwart future attacks. And what ends up happening is that Bush gets all the blame for the bad things that have happened and none of the credit for the tragedies that have been averted.

With that said, at this point, there’s not much Bush can say to alter the sentiment of the American people. The only thing that will allow him to regain their confidence is success in Iraq. It’s as simple as that.

SOTU Excerpts

As prepared for delivery:

On our growing economy:

 “A future of hope and opportunity begins with a growing economy — and that is what we haveâ€_Unemployment is low, inflation is low, and wages are rising.   This economy is on the move — and our job is to keep it that way, not with more government but with more enterprise.”

On the importance of strengthening and re-authorizing No Child Left Behind this year:

“Five years ago, we rose above partisan differences to pass the No Child Left Behind Actâ€_And because we acted, students are performing better in reading and math, and minority students are closing the achievement gap.”

“Now the task is to build on this success, without watering down standards … without taking control from local communities … and without backsliding and calling it reformâ€_And we can make sure our children are prepared for the jobs of the future, and our country is more competitive, by strengthening math and science skills.”  

On the President’s new health care initiatives:

“[I]n all we do, we must remember that the best healthcare decisions are made not by government and insurance companies, but by patients and their doctors.

On comprehensive immigration reform:

“Extending hope and opportunity in our country requires an immigration system worthy of America — with laws that are fair and borders that are secure.   When laws and borders are routinely violated, this harms the interests of our countryâ€_ Yetâ€_we cannot fully secure the border unless we take pressure off the border — and that requires a temporary worker program.”

On strengthening America’s energy security:

“Extending hope and opportunity depends on a stable supply of energy that keeps America’s economy running and America’s environment clean.   For too long our Nation has been dependent on foreign oil.   And this dependence leaves us more vulnerable to hostile regimes, and to terrorists — who could cause huge disruptions of oil shipments … raise the price of oil … and do great harm to our economy.   It is in our vital interest to diversify America’s energy supply — and the way forward is through technology.”  

 On the war on terror:

“For all of us in this room, there is no higher responsibility than to protect the people of this country from dangerâ€_[T]o win the war on terror we must take the fight to the enemy. From the start, America and our allies have protected our people by staying on the offense.   The enemy knows that the days of comfortable sanctuary, easy movement, steady financing, and free flowing communications are long over.   For the terrorists, life since Nine-Eleven has never been the same.”

“[O]ur military commanders and I have carefully weighed the options.   We discussed every possible approach.   In the end, I chose this course of action because it provides the best chance of success.   Many in this chamber understand that America must not fail in Iraq — because you understand that the consequences of failure would be grievous and far reaching.”

“The war on terror we fight today is a generational struggle that will continue long after you and I have turned our duties over to others.   That is why it is important to work together so our Nation can see this great effort through.”  

“Both parties and both branches should work in close consultation.   And this is why I propose to establish a special advisory council on the war on terror, made up of leaders in Congress from both political parties.   We will share ideas for how to position America to meet every challenge that confronts us.   And we will show our enemies abroad that we are united in the goal of victory.”

On American foreign policy:

“American foreign policy is more than a matter of war and diplomacy.   Our work in the world is also based on a timeless truth: To whom much is given, much is required.   We hear the call to take on the challenges of hunger, poverty, and disease — and that is precisely what America is doing.   We must continue to fight HIV/AIDS, especially on the continent of Africa.”

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