Chatting About Rudy
Earlier today, I chatted live with washingtonpost.com readers and handled more questions about former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani's presidential hopes.
Some excerpts are below, but first a note for all you Giuliani fans -- Hizzoner has launched a pre-presidential campaign Web site. It's called www.joinrudy2008.com.
Back to the chat:
Rockville, Md.: "The Fix remains skeptical that Giuliani, who is pro-choice and pro-gay rights, can win a GOP nominating process dominated by conservative voters."
Just a year ago a well placed elected Republican said just abut the same of McCain - who had helped him get elected. Times change and the urge to have a winner is very strong.
Chris Cillizza: The big difference between Giuliani and McCain is that the former is far to the ideological left of the conservative base of the party while the latter is slightly to their left.
McCain is pro-life and always has been. While a perception exists among base voters that McCain is not sufficiently conservative, his record in the Senate shows that he is far more of a conservative than Giuliani.
Nominating McCain might require conservatives to hold their nose; nominating Giuliani would require them to go against some of their deepest held convictions.
Can it happen? Of course. Is it likely? No.
Atlanta, Ga.: Chris,
So if Giuliani runs, does he try and do a Mitt Romney like flip-flop on the conservative's social issues?
Chris Cillizza: Actually, I think Giuliani has a few ways of appealing to social conservatives despite his own personal views on these hot-button issues.
One idea, which was suggested to me by South Carolina Republican operative Jim Dyke, is for Giuliani to come out in support of federal judges who are pro-life and opposed to the expansion of rights for homosexuals. Judges are a flashpoint among movement conservatives, and if Giuliani made clear that he would back judges in line with the beliefs of the base rather than his own, he could well insulate himself somewhat from being labeled a liberal.
Giuliani also could seek to paint himself as a libertarian rather than a liberal on social issues -- de-emphasizing his social positions and when asked insisting they were not something the government should be involved in regulating. While that is far from a perfect response to criticism from the right, it might convince some libertarian-minded conservatives that he is one of them.
Washington, D.C.: With a front-loaded primary schedule, can Giuliani raise enough money to stay competitive?
Chris Cillizza: I think that Giuliani is one of three candidates in the field who shouldn't have any problem paying the price of admission (between $50 and $100 million) for the primaries.
His fundraising base in New York City is a strong one and his reputation as America's Mayor coupled with the high esteem in which many Republican fundraisers hold him should guarantee that Giuliani is competitive financially.
There's a fascinating story in the Houston Chronicle today that details a recent Giuliani trip to Texas to cultivate donors. The story also hints at Giuliani's plans to mimic the Bush "pioneers" and "rangers" fundraising model using a baseball motif.
Saint Paul, Minn.: Given that the majority of Republican primary voters are very conservative and the two leaders on the Republican side are less conservative mavericks - McCain and Giuliani, does this leave an opening for a Mitt Romney or Sam Brownback that they would not otherwise have?
Chris Cillizza: Yes.
That said, McCain is doing everything in his power to position himself as the center-right candidate in the field rather than the center-left candidate.
In a weird way, the presence of Giuliani in the field allows McCain to present himself as the conservative -- but not too conservative -- alternative to Giuliani on the left and Brownback/Huckabee/Gingrich on the right.
I am not convinced that conservative voters are ready yet to buy Romney as one of them. He, too, is probably best served by trying to paint himself as a center right candidate in between the two poles I describe above.
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