Friday, February 09, 2007

How Giuliani Will Win

Time magazine examines the most over-examined question in politics today: how will Giuliani win conservative support. And they too, compare and contrast the approaches of Giuliani and Bush on abortion:

But Giuliani is starting to show how he plans to blunt those attacks--by disagreeing with himself, if only a little bit. He isn't abandoning his liberal social positions, the way his rival Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts Governor, has, but he is undercutting them by talking up conservative nuances and qualifiers that weren't always on display when he was mayor of New York City. He's not interested in waging a culture war; in fact, he's paving over the battle lines in the hope that his leadership in another war--the war on terrorism--will carry him to the nomination.

In an interview with Sean Hannity of Fox News, for example, Giuliani said, "I hate ... abortion ... However, I believe in a woman's right to choose." He then went on to say he would nominate Supreme Court Justices "very similar to, if not exactly the same as," conservatives John Roberts and Samuel Alito--in other words, he would be the most antiabortion "pro-choice" President in history. As for Roe v. Wade, "That's up to the court to decide." It's a mirror image of George W. Bush's formulation in 2000, when the candidate tried to reassure moderates by signaling that he opposed Roe but wouldn't actually try to overturn it. This time the candidate supports the intent of Roe but would choose Justices likely to limit or overthrow it. Talk about disagreeing with yourself.

Time also brings up a meme about Giuliani - that his popularity in NY was in the dumps prior to 9/11:

So maybe G.O.P. primary voters are prepared to see beyond the litmus tests. They may also eventually get to see the cranky, autocratic side of Giuliani--the side that New Yorkers grew weary of in the days before 9/11. That would be the Giuliani who ran his own talented police commissioner and three schools chancellors out of town and refused to meet with any number of African-American leaders, even after New York City cops fired 41 shots at an innocent, unarmed African immigrant named Amadou Diallo.

Be sure to check Tom Bevan at RCP for the reality-check:

So how much truth is there to the claim that Giuliani was a bum on 9/10? Not much, though I guess that depends on what criteria you use - not to mention taking into account the ideological make up of the registered voters of both parties in New York City responding to surveys. A general answer is that before 9/11 Rudy was pretty darn well-respected, though not necessarily so well liked.

Six days before September 11, Quinnipiac recorded Rudy's job approval rating among 303 New York City likely Democratic primary voters at 42% approve and 49% disapprove.

Six weeks earlier, on July 25, 2001, Quinnipiac released a more detailed tab of Rudy's approval rating among a larger sample of 913 New York City registered voters:

Quinnipiac notes that Rudy's 50-40 job rating had been "unchanged for months." His favorable/unfavorable rating among all voters in the survey, however, was 39% favorable, 36% unfavorable, and 23% mixed opinion...

On one hand, discussion of what New York City voters thought about Giuliani prior to 9/11 is irrelevant in trying to speculate how folks in Iowa or New Hampshire will view him as a post 9/11 presidential candidate. On the other hand, despite ideological differences there is some universality to human nature, and history does often provide clues to the future.

Furthermore, in some ways this quick look back at Giuliani's past bolsters his over all case to both Republicans and to the country at large which is, in a nutshell: "you don't have to like me or even necessarily agree with me, but I'm a sonofabitch who gets things done." Then again, despite his status as a 9/11 icon Rudy's past does make you question, as a prominent Democratic strategist said to me the other day, whether Giuliani's tough, pugilistic, New Yorker attitude is going to wear well over a long campaign with caucus goers in a place like Iowa.

I think the 'tough, pugilistic' thing is overstated. While Giuliani may not remind anyone of Bill Clinton, I think voters are likely to respond to a plain-speaking baseball fan. In fact, primary voters may wind up pleasantly surprised.

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