Rudy Dances with the Fundamentalists
Rudy's trying to make nice with the Christian right rebels. The LA Times reports
that Giuliani has accepted an invitation to attend, along with the rest of the Republican field, the "values voter summit"
sponsored by Tony Perkins's Focus on the Family in Washington on October 20. Perkins, of course, is one of the "secretive" Council for National Policy illuminati who has been talking up the idea of a Christian right third-party campaign should Giuliani win the GOP nomination.
While, as Matt Ortega has reported
, a recent poll indicated that such a campaign could pull away more than a quarter of the Republican vote -- and as much as I'd like to see that happen -- let me continue to be the guy who cautions you about reading too much into this. For one thing, as Rasmussen points out
in its analysis:
The latest poll highlights the potential challenges for Giuliani, but the numbers must be considered in context. A generic third-party candidate may attract 14% of the vote in the abstract at this time. However, if a specific candidate is chosen, that person would likely attract less support due to a variety of factors. Almost all third party candidates poll higher earlier in a campaign and their numbers diminish as election day approaches. Ultimately, of course, some Republicans would have to face the question of whether to vote for Giuliani or help elect a Democrat.
Of course, even despite such considerations an anti-abortion third-party candidate could do well enough to throw a close election to the Democrats. But the calculations will weigh on the movement leaders themselves. If they really believe they can draw 14% of the electorate, they may go forward with it. But they can't afford to look weaker than they already do. This would be a desperate move by a coterie of Christian right leaders who can't be eager to test exactly how far their influence has eroded. A break with fusionism and the conservative coalition is no small matter for these people.
The calculation will have to include saving face, since face may be all they have. As the LA Times
post notes, Giuliani has continued to defy laws of political gravity that the fundamentalists thought they wrote. One gets the sense that this rebellion is aimed as much at their own straying flock as at Rudy himself: remember who your real leaders are
. The problem, further illustrated
by this weekend's New York Times
article on religious conservative voters, is that the Council crowd may include the most famous figures in evangelical circles, but they don't necessarily dictate the political views and actions evangelicals take. The article uses the example of James Dobson's attempt to take down Fred Thompson, which achieved nothing but sparking an embarassing backlash.
That's why Giuliani's strategy seems to be aimed at offering the rebel leaders a way to save face. He'll never be what they want him to be, but he can court them just enough to flatter their need to believe in their own continuing relevance; he can play along with the notion of that relevance in the hopes that they won't feel the need to try and prove it with a breakaway campaign. That may be just enough to stop them from pulling the trigger, given how much they know they have to lose if they do.
It's still a delicate situation, and it could yet lead to a confrontation that I think neither side really wants. But we're not there yet.