Romney On Coulter Endorsement

Over at the Corner, there’s a discussion about Romney’s comment during his CPAC speech that Ann Coulter was a “moderate.” Obviously, it was a joke and shoud be treated as such. In light of the discussion, though, I thought it would be worth pointing out that when Romney came over to speak with bloggers yesterday, he was asked what he thought about the fact that Coulter endorsed him.

In response, Romney said: “Isn’t that something? Wow. I didn’t know that. I love all endorsements.”

Romney Interview

Mitt Romney just stopped by Bloggers’ Corner here at CPAC, and I asked him whether, given that he signed an assault weapon’s ban in Massachusetts in 2004 but has since become a lifelong member of the NRA, he would sign or veto a federal ban on assault weapons if it were presented to him. He basically punted on the issue, saying he couldn’t comment if he didn’t know the specifics of the legislation. To be fair, this is more or less the same way that Giuliani domestic advisor Bill Simon answered when I posed a similar question yesterday.

Romney said, “My position is the same as it has been, which is that I support the Second Ammendment, but I also support assault weapon’s ban, that’s why I signed a bill of that nature…” I followed up and asked what he would feel about a federal ban, and he said, “the specifics of the particular ban are something that I’d have to look at, and it’s been a long time since we’ve looked at the types of weapons that would be involved.”

Ed over at Captain’s Quarters has a podcast up, with the full audio of Romney’s answer, as well as his answers to other questions. Karol over at Alarming News also has a write up.

Re: Giuliani at CPAC

While Romney’s speech offered more nuts and bolts, Giuliani’s speech was thematic. At CPAC, Rudy Giuliani was facing a conservative audience that should be the most hostile toward the possibility of his winning the Republican nomination, given his oft-discussed positions on social issues, and yet he was generally well received, entering and exiting the stage to a standing ovation as “New York, New York” blasted. He got a great boost with an introduction by George Will, who spoke highly of his record as mayor of New York City. He described how Giuliani reduced crime, cut taxes, restrained spending, and slashed welfare rolls in a city that had suffered through decades of liberalism that had taken the city from the elegance of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” to the decay of the “Bonfire of the Vanities.” Will went as far as to call Giuliani’s reign as mayor the most successful example of conservative governance in the 20th Century.

Giuliani spent much of his speech discussing fiscal issues and made a powerful case for school choice. As he has done recently, he redefined the War on Terror. Americans, he said, are not warlike people, but desire peace. “This is not our war on terror, this the war of terrorists against us.”

Also, there was a dose of trademark Giuliani self-deprecation about some of the issues he faces in a Republican primary. In his introduction, Will described Maragret Thatcher as someone who would swat government agencies away with a handbag. In his opening, Giuliani joked that if he swatted government agencies with a handbag, he would have another problem. “I have enough issues with already, I don’t need more.” Perhaps it was a subtle reference to this video. Later in the speech, he cited Reagan’s 80-20 theory, that if you agree on 80 percent of the issues, you’re allies.

Re: Romney at CPAC

I thought he brought his A game, and gave the type of energetic speech that he really needed. It was also clear how he tried to subtly and not subtly draw a contrast to Giuliani and McCain. In a nice touch, he brought his wife to the podium to talk about Mitt the family man, which went over well with the crowd at CPAC–and also sets him apart from divorcees Giuliani and McCain. In the speech he promised to fight to repeal McCain-Feingold and opposes the McCain-Kennedy immigration bill. In Grover Norquist’s introduction, as well as Romney’s speech itself, there was an emphasis on needing a nominee who is a fighter for all the pillars of conservatism: fiscal conservatism, national security, and social issues. Romney hit on all those points in his speech, drawing on his experiences in Massachusetts. By busing in hundreds of supporters, he had a core group of enthusiastic audience members who helped pump up the energy level.

Huckabee at CPAC

I just went to a short reception where Mike Huckabee made some pre-remarks before his speech at CPAC in a few minutes. He talked about his victory in the 1993 election for lieutenant governor in Arkansas against Bill Clinton’s hand-picked candidate who was backed by the Clinton political machine, and connected that to his uphill battle for the nomination. He said “The pundits have spoken, but the people have not spoken.”

Rudy’s Ceasefire

Ramesh Ponnuru makes a good point in response to Ryan Sager’s article on Giuliani and social conservatives:

Ryan Sager’s piece today, in which he remarks that “[social-conservative] gatekeepers are becoming increasingly irrelevant in a party that wants to find its way out of the political wilderness and, to some extent, blames the more extreme elements of the religious right for leading it into the woods in the first place.”

I think that there is very, very little evidence either that “extreme elements of the religious right” are responsible for the Republican party’s difficulties or that the party, to any great extent, buys this analysis. I also think that to sell Giuliani as a way of weakening the social Right’s influence in the party is to do the candidate no favors.

I largely agree. It’s difficult to make the argument that the Republican Party is in bad shape because of extreme social conservatism. The reality is that problems in Iraq and Congressional scandals are responsible for the Republican defeat in 2006. Also, if the Giuliani campaign is pitched as a kind of effort to purge social conservatives from the party, then he’ll go down in flames. That’s why Giuliani has not been pitching himself this way. At no point has he argued that the Republican Party needs to become pro-choice and/or abandon social conservatism to win. He acknowledges that there are areas of disagreement, but wants the discussion to focus on the issues on which there is broad agreement. Essentially, he has been calling for a cease fire on social issues so that Republicans can unite along the common goals of steadfastness in the War on Terror and fiscal conservatism. He’s saying: I’ll appoint judges that you’ll approve of and let the social issues play themselves out in the states–let’s join together to beat the bad guys. This, in my view, is leadership.

Bill Simon on Giuliani

I just spoke will Bill Simon, Rudy Giuliani’s domestic advisor and asked him about Giuliani’s positions on judges, gun contol, and partial birth abortion.

I asked Simon about a story today in the Politico, which says that the judges Giuliani appointed as mayor leaned to the left, in contrast to his promise to appoint strict constructionist judges. Simon said the story was “comparing apples and oranges.” When Giuliani appointed judges in New York, he could only choose from a pool of three judges who were nominated by a 19-person advisory committee. So, he didn’t have a free rein to appoint whoever he wanted. Simon reiterated Giuliani’s pledge to appoint strict constructionists were he elected president.

On gun control, I asked him specifically whether Giuliani would sign or veto an assualt weapon’s ban if it were passed by the Democratic Congress. He said it was “premature” to answer that at this point, and reiterated Giuliani’s stance that he supports the Second Amendment and believes that any restrictions should be at the local rather than the federal level.

I asked him about Giuliani’s opposition to a ban on partial birth abortion when he ran for Senate in 2000. Simon assured me that Giuliani now supports a ban, as long as there is an exception for the life of the mother.

UPDATE: The Politico’s Ben Smith responds to the defense of Rudy’s NY judicial appointments.

McConnell on Card Check

I just went to a bloggers’ briefing with Sen. Mitch McConnell, and he talked a bit about the prospects of “card check” in the Senate. He said the Republicans’ “goal” was to block the bill, but wouldn’t give specifics when I asked whether he was confident that they had enough votes to filibuster.

The Resume Primary

A reader takes issue with my portrait of Romney’s record:

Romney’s resume is thin? Huh? That means you do NOT know enough about Romney! Bain Capital, Healthcare, Olympics, Budget balancing …just to name a few; now CAN you come up with anything on ALL other candidates that’s close to Romney’s experience (both in the private and public sector)? If all this campaigning had nothing to do with POLITICS, Romney easily comes out as the MOST QUALIFIED candidate – he has managerial, administrative, executive and other skills that a president should have in order to be effective! Again I challenge you to put other candidates’ resumes next to Romeny’s [sic] and we’ll see …stop making hollow accusations!

I am aware of Romney’s record. I specifically mentioned the balanced budget and healthcare in my post, and I don’t think the latter is an argument in Romney’s favor. I’m not denying that Romney was a successful businessman at Bain Capital, but my post was in response to Hunter’s question specifically about Romney’s political resume, and as a one-term governor, I stand by my point that it’s thin. The only reason I didn’t mention other candidates is that I wanted to try to avoid having to do another post about Giuliani, but since you asked for it…

Giuliani served as the third-highest ranking official in the Reagan Justice Department before leaving to become a U.S Attorney in New York, and then he proceeded to take down the mob. When he was elected mayor in 1993, the electoral environment in New York City was much less hospitable to Republicans than it was in Massachusetts when Romney won in 2002. Romney followed a 12-year string of Republican governors. Giuliani was the first NYC mayor elected as a Republican since 1965, and that mayor–John Lindsay–later became a Democrat. So, you have to go back to the re-election of Fiorello La Guardia in 1941 to find another Republican who stayed a Republican. In the last pre-Giuliani election in 1985 (Rudy won and lost a close race in 1989), the Republican candidate finished third, garnering a whopping 9 percent of the vote. And unlike Romney, Giuliani was able to get a Republican successor elected. Michael Bloomberg may not be a rock solid Republican, but he sure beats Mark Green or Freddy Ferrer.

When Giuliani was sworn in as mayor in 1994, New York City was an absolute cesspool of crime, filth, and corruption–averaging about 2,000 murders a year, with one in seven people on welfare. At the very least it was in far worse condition than Massachusetts was when Romney took over in 2002. With a City Council in which Democrats outnumbered Republicans 46-5, Giuliani faced just as difficult of a legislative environment as Romney did. He also was under constant attack by entrenched special interests, as well as the likes of the NY Times, Al Sharpton and the ACLU. While his accomplishments as mayor can fill (and have filled) a volume, Deroy Murdock recently offered a nice summary:

Times Square, a porn mecca when Giuliani arrived, now is home to Mary Poppins and other family-friendly musicals. Giuliani chopped overall crime 64 percent, slashed homicide 68 percent, graduated 649,895 New Yorkers (58 percent of relief recipients) from welfare to work, curbed or abolished 23 taxes, sliced the tax burden by $9.8 billion or 24 percent for a family of four earning $50,000, jettisoned racial and gender quotas in contracting, delivered 25,637 children from foster care to adoption, privatized 23,625 apartments from bureaucratic control to individual and family ownership, and financed charter schools while fighting for vouchers. Meanwhile, taxpayer-funded Medicaid abortions in Gotham fell 23 percent during Giuliani’s term.

Then there was Sept. 11. Some Romney supporters evidently feel that his rescuing of the 2002 Olympics was more impressive than Giuliani’s leadership on 9/11. I agree to disagree. But there’s no need to argue this point.

After leaving office, Giuliani has gained private sector experience by building a successful consulting, legal, and financial services firm. Romney’s achievements at Bain Capital are undeniable, but I don’t think most voters will hold it against Giuliani that he spent much of his adult live decimating the mafia and transforming New York City.

As I’ve said before, perhaps the Romney CEO candidacy would have more appeal if we were in the midst of a major economic crisis, but since we’re electing a wartime leader, I don’t think having built a tremendously successful investment firm is as relevant as Romney boosters seem to believe. Warren Buffett is the greatest investor in American history, but he ain’t Winston Churchill.