Monday, October 22, 2007

Rudy is selling, is the religious right buying?

From The Wall Street Journal:

GREENVILLE, S.C. -- At a recent Republican Party barbecue, Dennis Jones and state Rep. Garry Smith greeted each other like old friends. They chatted about dessert recipes. They joked about being Smith and Jones. They lamented Washington's big-spending ways.

But when the conversation turned to Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani, Messrs. Smith and Jones were more like Messrs. Hatfield and McCoy. Mr. Smith smiled sweetly, but made it clear to Mr. Jones, the county Giuliani campaign chairman, that he doesn't think much of the former New York City mayor or his record as a social moderate.

"He'll have a hard time taking my guns away," Mr. Smith warned Mr. Jones.

It's pretty frustrating being Rudy Giuliani's man in what may well be the most conservative county in one of the most conservative states in the Union.

Statewide, Mr. Giuliani is doing surprisingly well in South Carolina. Most polls show him tied for the lead in the Republican nominating contest with former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson, the South's favorite son in the race.

Mr. Giuliani's support seems strongest on the less-conservative coast. His political history of supporting abortion rights, gay civil unions and gun control, along with his personal history of infidelity and divorce, make him a tough sell among the Bible-believing folk of Greenville County, which accounts for one in 10 of the state's Republican primary voters.

Greenville is a particularly stark example of the challenge Mr. Giuliani faces nationwide in his quest to lead the party. Over the weekend, he confronted it directly with a speech to a convention of religious and social conservatives in Washington, telling the "Values Voters Summit" that he came "with an open mind and an open heart, and all I ask is that you do the same."

The results were mixed. The audience gave him a relatively warm reception. But in a straw poll of nearly 6,000 Family Research Council members, Mr. Giuliani placed eighth of nine candidates, with less than 2% of the vote.

If the Republican Party is just looking for someone who can fight the war on terror then John McCain would be far out in front. Despite all of McCain's other betrayals of his party he has been a consistent enthusiastic and articulate supporter of the war since the beginning. And he is a war hero to boot.

But McCain is in in fourth place and is unlikely to rise any higher.

The fact is that Mr. Giuliani's post 9/11 actions tell us that he can lead in a crisis and that he is good at managing disaster recovery, but they tell us very little else. He has the perfect resume to be the next head of FEMA but that alone does not make him qualified to be president.

The "Clinton Machine" has a largely unearned aura of invincibility around it. Hillary (otherwise known as the Wicked Bitch of the Midwest, The Evil One, Satan Incarnate and Mrs. Bill Clinton) is believed by some to be such a strong candidate that the ONLY hope of defeating her is to choose a Republican who can attract people who would not otherwise consider voting Republican. What the Giuliani partisans haven't fully thought out is how to get Republicans to vote for a candidate who appeals to people who hate Republicans.

The hope is that when someone points out his serial adultery, his support for taxpayer funded abortions, his support for gay marriage or sanctuary cities for illegal aliens or the fact that he tried to shut down the firearms industry through lawsuits that they can just hold up a picture of Mrs. Clinton and chant "socialized health care" and everyone will be so frightened that they will shut down their higher reasoning abilities and just run to Rudy.

Will it work? I can't say, but if it does it will be the end of any real influence that religious conservatives have within the Republican Party.