alien & sedition.
Sunday, February 25, 2007
  Rudy's Not a Juggernaut Yet

So Giuliani is about a mile ahead of the field. Stoller says we should stop listening to those who say Rudy can't win the GOP presidential nomination because he's "pro-abort" and "pro-gay":
Like a lot of us, [Josh Marshall] thinks that Republicans base their political judgment on issues, ie. gay rights, abortion, national defense, taxes, etc. He makes the same mistake that a lot of Democrats make, assuming that conservatives think the way that we do. They don't. They are authoritarians. Gay marriage, abortion, taxes, national security, none of it really matters to them. What they are looking for is an authoritarian to look like he's taking charge, and the way an authoritarian takes charge is to attack liberals and stomp on people who aren't like them. Giuliani did this in New York, so he's a rock star in Alabama. It's the same thing with Mitt Romney - he's not even being the least bit subtle about reversing everything he 'believed' in Massachusetts, but it doesn't matter. The right-wing base is entirely unprincipled, subduing any concerns they might have over political issues to a sheer authoritarian impulse.


And please please please stop assuming that they think like we do. They don't. Right-wingers are right-wingers for a reason. If they thought like us they'd be Democrats.
If we go by the Hunter Baker theorem - that GOP primary voters inevitably go for the biggest dog in the race - then Giuliani's looking like a lock.

I don't know. Mind you, I've had the same thoughts about Giuliani as Stoller has. Clearly he's got this mystical authoritarian appeal, the kind of thing that, as we've seen, tends to induce right-wingers to ignore their "principles" and swoon into hero-worship mode.

The Rudy dynamic right now is the mirror image of the Romney dynamic. In each case, somebody has to abandon principles. Romney does it so the voters don't have to. Insofar as the principles at stake are a vague pro-choiciness and not-anti-gayishness, Giuliani is sticking to his guns and inviting the primary voters to abandon theirs. This does have the effect of adding to his strong-leader mystique, as any liberal who has ever torn his own hair out over Democratic wishy-washiness will tell you.

The question is can it continue. And how much influence do conservative opinion-leaders really have over their own crowd? Because Romney, thanks to his furious pandering, seems to be staying in the good graces of the conservative elite - and meanwhile, there is a genuine and persistent disdain for Giuliani. Certainly, it's coming from only a portion of the conservative leadership, but it's very real, and one can expect it to be amplified when Rudy officially jumps in. For instance, here's Nathanael Blake at Human Events:
I think Giuliani is the least electable of the leading Republican candidates. His personal life makes Bill Clinton look good, his views on social issues from abortion to gun control are to the left of the American mainstream, let alone the Republican mainstream, his personality is nasty and abrasive, and his successes are mostly in areas that the public doesn’t worry about much anymore.
Blake is responding to Steven Malanga's City Journal piece, which was the most significant effort so far to frame Giuliani as a genuine conservative (it should be noted that City Journal is published by the Manhattan Institute, which was closely linked with the Giuliani administration in New York). Blake argues that Giuliani's signature issues as mayor - crime, welfare and taxes - simply do not resonate these days at the national level.

Of course, Blake does not discuss the authoritarian personality that likely explains Rudy's real appeal to many conservatives. But he does provide further indication that many in the conservative movement are biding their time before they begin an assault on the mayor. And he reveals an interesting thing when he mentions Rudy's 9/11 performance:
America is tired of 9/11, and while the Mayor’s work in the aftermath is admirable and will no doubt help him, I don’t think being a competent mayor who stood strong after the attacks is going to be enough to win a national election seven years later, especially given all of his baggage.
What's fascinating about this is how it suggests that conservatives will be making the case that Giuliani's 9/11 performance is irrelevant to his qualifications for the presidency. If and when Rudy does get the GOP nomination, Democrats may find it useful that the right has done some of that groundwork.

I'm still somewhat inclined to agree with Stoller: for very many conservatives, strong personality and mythmaking trumps all. But at the same time, Giuliani has nowhere to go but down. Take the warnings of Tony Perkins, take the clear signals from the Council for National Policy crowd, take the hints provided by columns by people like Blake and Terrence Jeffrey, take the fact that voters haven't even had the chance to see for themselves how grating Giuliani can be. All of this, no doubt, is why Rudy hasn't announced yet. In fact, I imagine that he'll wait as long as possible to do so. As long as he's only a potential candidate, he's the frontrunner. Once enters the race, the trial begins, and the gap will narrow.

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Giuliani can tie Marc Rich around Hillary's neck. He was the prosecutor who indicted Rich in 1983.
Hmmm - What Would Luntz Do?

Play up the crazy, a la Luntz's comments about the Dean Scream in Words That Work: people had to face the possibility that they'd hear that crazy voice for 4 years and demurred.

Loop a bunch of Rudy's radio appearances, and Bob's your uncle, you'll hear nationwide cries of "Uncle".

My choice would be his serial fascination with the ferret advocate.
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