Despite Fred Thompson's dramatic gains on Rudy Giuliani in Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, Todd points out at MyDD that Rudy still retains considerable leads in all three states. Most signficant, though, are his extraordinarily strong favorability ratings in those states (54/28, for instance, in Florida), which are similar to his favorability numbers nationally. Says Todd:
A lot is made of Clinton's high negatives but not enough is said about Rudy' still high positives, which could end up being the Republicans' secret weapon in the general if he gets the nomination.The same kind of analysis prompts a couple of conservative observers to declare that Giuliani is "still the frontrunner." At Real Clear Politics, Ross Kaminsky says this is for one simple reason: he's the most electable Republican:
[W]hile it is still VERY early in this process, internals of a recent Quinnipiac University poll show why I believe Rudy is still somewhat more likely to get the nomination than Fred: He is more likely to be able to win the general election.Gary Matthew Miller agrees:
For example, the Quinnipiac Poll shows Giuliani tied with or leading Hillary Clinton in three critical swing states: Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida. The analysis in the link above focuses on Giuliani's lead shrinking from prior polls, but that is not the key. The key is that Giuliani far outperforms the other Republican frontrunners.
If enough GOP primary participants are persuaded that only the Mayor could prevail in November of next year, that just might be the fulcrum upon which the Republican nomination may pivot.Of course, the John Kerry experience demonstrated that "electability" is a tricky concept, but there's plenty of reason to believe that Kaminsky and Miller are correct. Yet there's a puzzle at the heart of the equation. It's one thing for primary voters to make a calculation about electablity; it's another thing for the conservative ideological apparatus itself to use the same calculation to endorse a candidate who rejects key tenents of the longstanding conservative consensus. As broad swathes of the right's intellectual, financial, and media elites use Rudy's "leadership qualities," his fiscal conservatism, and his "electability" as excuses to abandon the socially conservative half of their fusionist coalition, the issue for those social conservatives becomes much starker.