Monday, April 30, 2007

Giuliani's dance with conservatives

Twice divorced, pro-choice, pro-gun control, and pro-gay rights…Does this sound like a successful Republican running for office? Former mayor of New York Rudolph Giuliani has a history of being all three. Yet he’s the frontrunner in a Republican primary campaign that has started little more than two years into President Bush’s second term.

“[Giuliani] produced the eight most consecutive years of successful conservative governance in the 20th century in America,” said conservative columnist George Will as he introduced “America’s mayor” to the Conservative Political Action Conference in March. Ravenous applause accompanied Will’s assertion that under Giuliani, New York's welfare rolls dropped by 600,000.

But other parts of Giuliani’s past may be catching up to him. His conservative opponent in the 1993 New York mayoral race, George Marlin, called him a “lifelong liberal” in The Politico. He notes that Giuliani ran for mayor as a “liberal Republican” and criticized 1994 gubernatorial candidate George Pataki for wanting to enact an "irresponsible" 25 percent state income tax cut.

The difference between conservative camps on Giuliani appears minimal in national opinion polls among Republican voters, with Giuliani leading by at least 10 percent among all the candidates. But with a mixed record on conservative the issues, why is he so far ahead? Does he stand a chance to win the nomination?

“My guess about Giuliani is that most people don't have a clear sense of what he stands for ... just that he's one of the "heroes" of 9/11,” John Sharpless, a UW-Madison historian and former congressional candidate, said in an email.

Giuliani has a lot of “vague positives” without much substance, Sharpless said. Voters think that he is a “nice guy.”

A Newsweek poll puts Giuliani with a 25 percent lead in a one-on-one match up with rival Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, and a 50 percent lead over former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney. Other statistics back up Sharpless’s assertion that many Republican voters have false perceptions on where Giuliani stands.

The same poll, conducted at the end of February, notes that 85 percent didn’t know that Giuliani has opposed an amendment banning gay marriage. Of 1,202 Republican voters, 62 percent didn’t know that he is pro-choice and 81 percent didn’t know that has favored gun control laws.

Giuliani has had success in lowering crime and creating better economic environment in New York, which slightly contributes to his image as an effective leader, said Charles Franklin, a UW-Madison political scientist and statistician.

The New York Times reported that the number of murders dropped from 1,946 in 1993 to 714 in 2001, a 63 percent drop during Giuliani’s two terms. Giuliani also cut taxes by $2.5 billion and turned a $2.3 billion budget deficit into a budget surplus.

But Franklin said that most voters do not consider this.

“It’s hard to underestimate the lack of knowledge that people have about politicians.” he said. “What do ordinary citizens in Kansas know about crime in New York?”

Franklin agrees with Sharpless that Giuliani’s largest advantage is his image as a “Churchillian figure” post Sept. 11. A well-known personality goes a long way, and this is even more important given the lack of a “strong conservative” candidates.

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, consistently vote conservative, Franklin said. But they are seen as far too divisive, while Romney is seen as too liberal.

“Conservative talk radio consistently vilifies two politicians: Hillary Clinton and John McCain,” Franklin said. “McCain continues to nosedive.”

Evangelical churches and pro-life groups have cast McCain into flames because of the McCain-Feingold campaign reform act, Franklin said, with more limits on electioneering. Other thorns in conservative sides are McCain’s opposition to the use of torture and his compromise with Senate Democrats over the ability to filibuster judicial nominees.

While the leading contenders are still in Giuliani’s shadow, Franklin sees former senator Fred Thompson as a less controversial, but consistently conservative candidate coming up the ranks. Thompson garnered 17 percent to McCain’s 22 percent and Giuliani’s 33 percent in a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll held last month.

“Thompson hasn’t even started running yet and he’s showing potential in the polls, Franklin said, noting that he would likely take conservative votes from McCain.

Giuliani, meanwhile, has changed his rhetoric to be more with conservative Republicans on some issues. He blasted New Hampshire’s new civil union law for “going to far,” as it “states same sex civil unions are the equivalent of marriage and recognizes same sex unions from outside states.”

On gun control, his campaign Web site says “Rudy understands that what works in New York doesn’t necessarily work in Mississippi or Montana.” Under Mayor Giuliani, New York became the first city in New York State to file a lawsuit against the gun industry.

As American voters learn more about Giuliani’s positions, the conservative credentials of challengers may be his downfall. But up until now, few people seem to be noticing as he leads the pack. Those who do notice, have to consider how much value they attribute to “liberal stances” on abortion rights, gay rights, and gun control.

“The question is, do you need someone who is 100 percent on these issues, or someone who reaches a threshold?” asked Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, in Newsweek. “[Giuliani] wouldn’t be polling so well if he wasn’t coming close to a certain threshold.”


Caroline said...

Great analysis--drawn from a wide variety of sources!

I also wonder how much of a sense of humor some of the real right-wingers have; I can just see them turning on Giuliani the more his old appearances on SNL get replayed--or this YouTube video at
But who knows? I'm always glad to see politicians who can laugh at themselves--not something that I've seen in many Republicans.

Superb Jon said...

AP October 24, 1994 Mayor Rudolph Giuliani rejected his own party's candidate for governor Monday and threw his support behind embattled Democrat Mario Cuomo's bid for a fourth term. . . concerned that Pataki's plan to cut New York's state income tax by 25 percent over four years might mean less state aid to the city. . . "Mario Cuomo will simply be a better governor than George Pataki."

AP August 19, 1994 Giuliani, a former federal prosecutor elected mayor last fall, stood on a stage with Clinton in Minneapolis last week and applauded after the president ripped congressional Republicans who derailed the bill.

AP February 8, 2000 Giuliani has routinely run for mayor with Liberal Party backing. . . "He's wrong on domestic partners, he's wrong on gays in the military, he's wrong on gay rights, he's wrong on rent control, he's wrong on ... we could just go on and on and on," Long said.

AP March 3, 1997 dressed as a woman. . . Giuliani called his feminine alter ego "Rudia." . . . "a Republican pretending to be a Democrat pretending to be a Republican."

AP July 6, 2000 biography of Mayor Rudolph Giuliani claims several members of his family had ties to the mob and that his father fired a gun at a man during a Brooklyn shootout. It also says the law-and-order mayor himself once slugged a guy who ogled his date. . . Giuliani's father, Harold, pleaded guilty and served 18 months in prison for holding up a milkman at gunpoint in the 1930s

AP June 28, 2001 Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, in an effort to escape the strains of his divorce, has forsaken Gracie Mansion for the refuge of a close friend's high-rise apartment, according to published reports. . . apartment is owned by the mayor's friend, Howard Koeppel, a [homosexual] Queens car dealer

UPI February 24, 1982 says living in the suburbs is ''sterile,'' and rural life is a ''joke.'' Koch made the comments in an interview with Playboy magazine . . . Questioned about time wasted in city subways, Koch replied, ''As opposed to wasting time in a car? Or out in the country, wasting time in a pickup truck when you have to drive 20 miles to buy a gingham dress or a Sears Roebuck suit?''

AP March 17, 2006 "If you drive from Schenectady to Niagara ... it looks like Appalachia," Spitzer said . . .Appalachia is a mountainous region with some well-documented, often oppressive rural poverty. It covers all of West Virginia and parts of 12 states, including part of southwestern New York.

NYT June 8, 1994 Brushing aside suggestions of patronage, Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani yesterday defended the hiring of four relatives to positions in his administration, saying that they were hired because of merit, not family ties. . . hired Catherine Giuliani, who is married to a cousin, also named Rudy Giuliani, as a program coordinator in the Community Assistance Unit

AP April 29, 2008 Rudy Giuliani should not have received Holy Communion during the pope's visit because the former presidential candidate supports abortion rights, New York Cardinal Edward Egan said Monday. Egan says he had "an understanding" with Giuliani that he is not to receive the Eucharist.

AP March 23, 2007 Giuliani's first marriage to his second cousin, Regina Peruggi, ended after 14 years in divorce and later an annulment. His second marriage, to TV personality Donna Hanover, ended in a bitter divorce

AP May 25, 2001 court order barring the mayor's girlfriend, 46-year-old Judith Nathan, from the mansion . . . Hanover is the oldest of four girls born to Gwen Kofnovec and her husband, Bob, a Czech immigrant and lieutenant commander in the Navy. After studying political science at Stanford University, she graduated from Columbia's Graduate School of Journalism