Thursday, November 8, 2007

Rudy Giuliani is GOP's Tough Guy

Yesterday's big political news was Pat Robertson's endorsement of Rudy Giuliani for the GOP presidential nomination. Why would a top leader of the Christian right back the socially liberal former New York Mayor?

Today's Los Angeles Times argues that Giuliani's cultivated a tough guy image with a combative style on the hustings. This tough love approach may be paying off, even with hardline conservatives:

With his intense demeanor and aggressive policy stances - such as pledging to "prevent" Iran from gaining a nuclear weapon or to "set them back five or 10 years" - Giuliani has methodically built an image as the toughest guy on the block, unafraid of looking belligerent in the cause of keeping America safe.

Though it isn't always pretty up close, Giuliani's demeanor seems to be working. He leads the national polls for a Republican nomination that many believed he could never win because of his relatively liberal views on abortion and other social issues.

As a counterweight to his positions on social policy, Giuliani has broadened his image, once narrowly rooted in his leadership after Sept. 11, to one that projects strength on many fronts.

The man who led New York City through the trauma of terrorist attacks has promised to keep Al Qaeda on the defensive, possibly even sending troops into Pakistan uninvited. The man who chased prostitutes from Times Square now casts himself as a defender of free speech for religious groups and a protector of families from crime, drugs and high taxes.

And the man who governed a Democratic city as a Republican mayor, staring down the "toughest labor unions that anybody ever met," is promoting himself as the strongest opponent to the Democrats' presidential front-runner, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York.

On the campaign trail, some of Giuliani's rough City Hall edges are smoothed -- a familiar scowl has been replaced by frequent smiles and even a chuckle. But Giuliani has honed his own style of combativeness. As some in New Hampshire saw recently, he is unafraid to dole out tough love.
The article goes on:

Giuliani's success has exposed an unusual dynamic in the GOP primary race: National security and electability are trumping cultural issues. It is a dynamic that few anticipated last year, when former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Sen. John McCain of Arizona began their aggressive courtships of evangelical leaders, such as the late Rev. Jerry Falwell.

The primacy of national security was on display Wednesday, when Christian Broadcasting Network founder Pat Robertson endorsed Giuliani, citing Islamic terrorists' "blood lust" as the top issue facing the country and calling Giuliani the best equipped to handle it.

Though the former mayor's national poll numbers have not risen above the low 30s, he maintains double-digit leads over his closest GOP rivals. And at least some social conservatives appear to be increasingly willing to support Giuliani, despite disagreeing with him on abortion, gay rights, immigration and gun control, and in spite of his three marriages and his strained relations with his children.

Viewed as the strongest GOP contender and the most able to defeat Clinton in the general election, the former mayor is winning support from nearly a third of Republican voters who believe abortion should be outlawed, according to a recent Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg survey. Many rank-and-file social conservatives appear willing to shirk calls from some leading Christian conservatives, such as Focus on the Family founder James C. Dobson, to respond to a Giuliani victory in the primary race by leaving the GOP and backing a third-party contender.

He leads in national polls, and surveys show Giuliani running relatively strong in several key early-voting states, including conservative South Carolina. While Giuliani is running second in New Hampshire behind Romney, a recent Rasmussen Reports survey showed that 77% of likely GOP primary voters in that state viewed Giuliani favorably - more than any other candidate.
This is all very interesting, but it's nothing to write home to mom about. Giuliani's still in the thick of a competitive race. Iowa and New Hampshire could be make or break, especially if Mitt Romney, or one of the other GOPers, builds insurmountable momentum with a set of early victories in those two key first-in-the-nation contests.

I like Giuliani, though. He's not my first pick, but
his national standings are competitive and he'd give Hillary Clinton a good thrashing in the general election.