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.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2006, Campaign 2008, Public Opinion Polls, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. NoZe says:

    I don’t know if I’d agree that Kerry was the “most electable” of the candidates in 2004. The most organized and well-funded perhaps, but I was concerned from the beginning the electability of a New England Senator.

    Recent history has shown us that Southern and Western governors make much better candidates! They appear to be in short supply in both parties in this electoral cycle!

  2. James Joyner says:

    Recent history has shown us that Southern and Western governors make much better candidates! They appear to be in short supply in both parties in this electoral cycle!

    Huckabee and Richardson are the only two that come readily to mind and neither seems to be getting any traction. I’m not surprised about the former but am somewhat at the latter. Richardson could very well be the Democrats’ best general election candidate among the current bunch.

  3. NoZe says:

    I agree, I’m surprised Richardson hasn’t done better than he has!

  4. Alex Knapp says:

    Further, Guiliani certainly has plenty of baggage, so I’m not even sure the idea that he is “the most electable” is even correct.

    James, about two weeks ago I’d’ve agreed with you, but now I’m starting to worry. Giuliani seems to have some teflon in his blood.

  5. ken says:

    Giuliani is a wacko. So far he has not had to face any concerted effort to expose his unstable psychotic personalty disorders.

    Let’s hope he gets the republica nomination. He will be destroyed within a week of the convention.

  6. Derrick says:

    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.

    The problem with Rudy is that the Republican base will ultimately have few reasons to be energized by his candidacy to go out and do the little things that got Bush elected. You can reasonably argue that without the intensity of the “Social conservative” voters who had church rally’s and phone banks that Bush wouldn’t be President today. If Rudy is the nominee, I think you will see a much more pedestrian effort by the base to get him elected than Bush. That, I don’t think is going to cut it in the end.

  7. And, of course, political opponents must be destroyed, right Ken?

  8. ken says:

    And, of course, political opponents must be destroyed, right Ken?

    Before the conservatives destroy any more of America, yes.

    But don’t worry. Like the cockroach conservatives will always be with us. Rudy, no doubt, will find some right wing organization to support him after the election. He’ll do just fine.

  9. Eric Dondero says:

    You know I’m so sick and damned tired of all these Conservatives saying that “I dunno if I can support Giuliani.”

    You know something Conservatives, we libertarian Republicans have been supporting your candidates for decades now. We hold our breaths, suck in our pride and go out and walk the precincts, knock on doors, lick envelopes for all of your candidates.

    For once, the least you all can do is to return the favor, by supporting libertarian-leaning Giuliani.

    The Republican Party is made up of THREE FACTIONS!! Not one! There’s Moderates, there’s Conservatives, and there’s Libertarians.

    Well, for once we libertarian Republicans have the strongest candidate in the field. How about bucking up and supporting your fellow libertarian Republicans, instead of bitchin’ and moaning, ‘eh!