Why John McCain and Rudy Giuliani Won’t Get Elected
John Heilemann has an interesting piece in New York magazine called, “N.Y.’s Favorite Republicans – GOPers City Democrats Can Get Behind.” In it, he explains why, contrary to the early buzz, neither John McCain nor Rudy Giuliani will be elected president. Further, he argues that it’s a good thing for the GOP.
It begins with a self-deprecating McCain dismissing the fact that, “in poll after pollÃ¢€”from serious surveys conducted by reputable outfits to online straw votes run by wack-job WebsitesÃ¢€”McCain and Giuliani are the partyÃ¢€™s only putative candidates with support in double digits. (Fascinatingly, the sole exception, when her name is included, is Condoleezza Rice.)”
Ã¢€œItÃ¢€™s 95 percent name I.D.,Ã¢€ McCain tells me. Ã¢€œItÃ¢€™s Ã¢€˜I know who John McCain is, I know who Rudy Giuliani is, but IÃ¢€™ve never heard of Mitt Romney or Sam Brownback.Ã¢€™ Ã¢€
That candor and this passage help explain why people fundamentally like McCain–and yet staunch Republicans don’t trust him:
Afterward, I told McCain that the infatuation with him by countless liberalsÃ¢€”barely a day goes by in New York without some habitual Democrat telling me he would consider voting for McCain against ClintonÃ¢€”struck me as hard to fathom.
McCain, without missing a beat, replied, Ã¢€œThey donÃ¢€™t know me well enough.Ã¢€
We both laughed at that, but he wasnÃ¢€™t entirely kidding, for McCain has always been more conservative than either the left or the right wishes to admit. A recent piece in The Nation captured the point concisely: Ã¢€œIn 2004 he earned a perfect 100 percent rating from Phyllis SchlaflyÃ¢€™s Eagle Forum and a 0 percent from NARAL. . . . He has supported school vouchers, a missile defense shield, and private accounts for Social Security. Well before 9/11 McCain advocated a new Reagan doctrine of Ã¢€˜rogue-state rollback.Ã¢€™Ã¢€
So what accounts for the deep suspicion of McCain on the right? Certainly the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance-reform law, which conservatives saw as a violation of the First Amendment, is part of the story. And certainly his liberal positions on immigration and climate change are part of it, too. But, at bottom, the conservative wariness of McCain has less to do with his stances on particular issues than with a more fundamental sense of betrayal. Ã¢€œBefore 2000, McCain was a pretty reliable conservative,Ã¢€ says David Keene, head of the American Conservative Union. Ã¢€œIn fact, he could have run in that election as the Reaganite challenger to Bush. But instead he wanted to be the truth-telling iconoclast. He decided the media was his constituency, not conservatives, and he ran by attacking his own party. A lot of people decided then he couldnÃ¢€™t be trusted.Ã¢€
As to Giuliani,
Giuliani runs slightly ahead of McCain consistently. And no one doubts that GiulianiÃ¢€™s popularity is real and sincerely felt. Yet among political professionals there is something approaching a consensus that of the two men, he occupies the far weaker position. To start with, McCain has run a national campaign beforeÃ¢€”a considerable asset. McCain can also lay claim to the Ã¢€œitÃ¢€™s my turnÃ¢€ mantle of seniority in the presidential sweepstakesÃ¢€”another important advantage in a party of primogeniture.
Worse for Giuliani, because he and McCain have the same set of strengthsÃ¢€”heroism, national-security credÃ¢€”and appeal to the same moderate and independent base of voters, it will make it devilishly difficult for Hizzoner to portray himself as a McCain alternative. As Keene puts it, Ã¢€œIf McCain is the problem, Rudy isnÃ¢€™t the solution.Ã¢€
Even if McCain werenÃ¢€™t present in the race, Giuliani would have his share of obstacles to surmount. Unlike McCain, who can at least lay credible claim to being conservative on many social issues, Giuliani is something close to a bona fide social liberal: proÃ¢€“gay rights, proÃ¢€“gun control, thrice married, etc. Can some of these issues be fudged, rendering Giuliani modestly more palatable to the red-meat-eating right? Sure. But one of them cannot.
That would be abortion. And many believe that issue will keep Giuliani on the sidelines.
Says one longtime political-media guru, Ã¢€œMcCain shows every sign of running and Giuliani shows no sign. McCain is out on a book tour, raising money for his pac, giving money away to other Republican candidates. WhatÃ¢€™s Rudy doing? Giving speeches, making money for himself. You canÃ¢€™t just sit there thinking, Hey, it would be fun to run; you have to be organizing right now, putting people in place.Ã¢€ Adds another campaign vet, Ã¢€œI know people in town who are signed up to work for every potential candidate on the listÃ¢€”Allen, Huckabee, Brownback, even Gingrich. But I donÃ¢€™t know a single soul whoÃ¢€™s working on GiulianiÃ¢€™s campaign.Ã¢€
Heilemann draws an interesting conclusion, though:
But even if he doesnÃ¢€™t [run], Giuliani, along with McCainÃ¢€”whether he ultimately succeeds in winning the nominationÃ¢€”is essential to whatever the post-Bush GOP is destined to become. Charismatic, candid, and all too human, they create the impression, however illusory, that the Republican Party actually was a big tent and might, just might, be a big tent again.
There’s something to that, to be sure. The nominating electorate of both parties are likely too ideological to produce a candidate that will end the recent string of polarizing general elections. The only way I can see a McCain or Giuliani getting the nomination is if Hillary Clinton or some other candidate runs away with the Democratic nomination so early that there is time for Democrats to cross over into the GOP primaries. That was the only reason McCain was so competitive in 2000, after all. The problem, though, is that every state is rushing to push its primary earlier in the process to preclude being left out.