Monday, August 30, 2004

Rudie Can Fail

Rudy Giuliani speaks tonight at the Republican convention, amidst widespread speculation that he will be a presidential candidate in 2008. (Michael Crowley discusses this in the latest New Republic). Rudy was a great mayor who performed magnificently in a moment of extraordinary crisis. He has become one of the nation's most admired public officials as well as one of the GOP's most popular stump speakers. Given that New York is home to many of the nation's biggest political givers, he should have no problem raising enough money for a presidential bid. And even given his history of testy relations with the press, Giuliani should garner plenty of favorable coverage, if only for his "hero" status. There's only one problem with a Giuliani presidential candidacy. There's absolutely no way he can win the nomination.

On issue after issue, Giuliani has espoused views diametrically opposed to the GOP base. Not only that, he has often been flamboyant in doing so. He's not just pro-choice, he opposed a ban on "partial-birth" abortions. He's not just pro-gay-rights, he signed one of the nation's most generous domestic partnership laws (and famously lived with a gay couple after his adultery put an end to his second marriage). He's not just in favor of legal immigration, he has opposed cracking down on illegal immigration. And it goes beyond issues. His whole cultural style could not been more alien to the conservative white Protestants who dominate the GOP. He is an opera-loving Italian-American from New York City, a thrice-married and publicly unfaithful husband, a decidedly unobservant Catholic, an occasional crossdresser who clearly has no problem with gay people. And can you imagine Rudy telling a group of evangelicals how Jesus changed his heart?

Giuliani would face tough going in the Iowa caucuses, where his cultural views would be anathema to conservative activists. He might face special trouble there, because Iowa is home to many Catholic right-to-lifers, who take special umbrage at a member of their faith who fails to oppose abortion. But he might run well in New Hampshire, home to many moderate Republicans and where Independents can vote in the presidential primary. But then comes the real hurdle for a Giuliani candidacy: South Carolina. The South Carolina primary has become the critical test for GOP nominees in recent years: Bob Dole and George W. Bush won here after losing New Hampshire, starting their . And unfortunately for Giuliani, South Carolina is home to some of the most socially conservative Republicans in the nation. (Republican candidates still campaign at Bob Jones!) They might admire Rudy now as the hero of 9/11, but just wait until they learn about his views on abortion and gay rights. Just wait until they hear about his infidelity. Just wait until they see him in drag. And it's not just South Carolina -- most of the South will react the same way. Same goes for the Rocky Mountain and Great Plains states.

Don't get me wrong. I've admired Giuliani ever since he was a federal prosecutor and I was a hero-worshipping teenager in an unfashionable suburb of New York City. But I just can't imagine him becoming the Republican presidential nominee.

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