Rudy Giuliani’s Electability
Dan Balz, Jon Cohen and Jennifer Agiesta analyze a new ABC/WaPo poll showing that Rudy Giuliani continues to dominate the Republican field and find that “electability” is a key reason for his strong showing.
A new Washington Post-ABC News poll of the Republican field shows Giuliani with a sizeable lead over his three principal rivals. The former mayor was the choice of 37 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, well ahead of Arizona Sen. John McCain and the still-undeclared Fred Thompson, the former senator from Tennessee, virtually tied at 16 and 15 percent, respectively. Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney ran fourth with 8 percent.
Giuliani’s frontrunner status is fueled by a broad-based perception that he is the party’s most electable candidate. Nearly half of Republicans believe Giuliani is their party’s best chance of winning in November 2008; that is three or four times higher than the percentage mentioning other candidates. Democrats and independents also said Giuliani would represent the Republicans’ best shot at holding onto the White House.
(I should note that only question in the linked poll about the “electability” issue, #40, is asked of Democrats; I can’t find a similar question asked of Republicans. I presume there was comparable question asked of Republicans that was omitted during the editing process. What follows presumes Balz and company aren’t making this up out of thin air.)
It worries me when “electability” becomes a major part of people’s calculations. That was a large part of the reason Democrats nominated John Kerry in 2004. While he came very close, he ultimately couldn’t beat a very flawed incumbent, leaving partisans to wonder how they would have done had they nominated a candidate about whom the base could get more enthusiastic.
To be sure, practicality is sometimes necessary. It makes little sense to defeat a RINO/DINO incumbent in a state dominated by the opposition party on the grounds they are insufficiently conservative/liberal. But presidential nominees are chosen by a much larger percentage of the voters and over a much wider swatch of the country. It’s rare, indeed, for that process to pick someone so ideologically extreme as to be unelectable.
Now, I’m not yet sold on any of the candidates. I’ve got serious reservations about Giuliani but could very well, when it comes to it, decide that he’s the best of the bunch. But I hope that, if he becomes the nominee, he does so because he’s the consensus favorite among the alternatives, not because people are trying to project what happens months down the road. Further, Guiliani certainly has plenty of baggage, so I’m not even sure the idea that he is “the most electable” is even correct.