The political cognoscenti are dismissing Rudolph Giuliani's chances of winning the 2012 GOP presidential nomination, and with good reason: Giuliani, as AmSpec alumnus Philip Klein notes, spent $59 million in 2008 and got all of one delegate. So what could possibly make Rudy think he'd do any better this time around?
Well, for starters it's 2012, not 2008, and four years have made a world of difference politically. This time, Rudy won't be running against "hope, change and history." Instead, he'll be running against a very ordinary -- and very liberal -- incumbent Democratic president, with an abysmal record of economic failure and economic mismanagement.
And, say what you will about Rudy, there's no disputing the fact that he turned New York City around -- from a crime-ridden cesspool of liberalism to America's safest haven for entrepreneurs the world over. So if Rudy can do for America what he did for New York, well then I and millions of others will rightly say: "Bring it on!"
As for winning the Republican presidential nomination, it is true that Rudy isn't a perfect or pristine conservative, but then who is?
Romney? (Romneycare.) Pawlenty? (Cap and trade.) Santorum? (The prescription drug entitlement.) Paul? (Isolationist.) Cain? (He knows nothing of foreign policy and seems to think this is a plus.)
The truth is that all of the GOP contenders have serious political and philosophical liabilities; Rudy's are arguably the least offensive. The man had to run, remember, in the world headquarters of liberalism, New York City, which is home to some of the most hostile and aggressive leftists known to mankind.
So when it comes to standing up to the Left, conservatives can know with metaphorical certitude that Rudy won't be cowed and intimidated; he won't be silenced and paralyzed. He'll fight back, and he'll fight to win.
The one issue that does give conservatives such as myself serious pause is abortion. Rudy is supposedly "pro choice." But that's not really true -- or at least it's not operationally true.
Rudy recognized that there was absolutely no way a lone Republican mayor in overwhelmingly Democratic New York could ever change the city's extremely liberal abortion policy. So he wisely opted not to fight that battle. Instead, he focused on areas such as crime and the economy where he could fight effectively and win.
But as president, Rudy has pledged to appoint conservative judges who will interpret the law and not legislate from the bench. Given Roe v. Wade, this is the most important pro-life policy a president can effect; and Rudy clearly is on our side, the pro-life side.
True, Rudy's personal life has been marked by some trouble and tragedy. He's been married three times and, while mayor, shared a residence for a time with a gay couple. And, for some conservative primary voters, that alone is enough to disqualify Rudy: because, in their minds, he isn't a sufficiently good example or role model for children.
I understand this concern, but think that it misses a more important truth: Despite Rudy's personal failings, his public character is stellar and beyond reproach. This is the man, remember who fought the Sicilian Mob, the public employees unions, and the left-wing media. Rudy might fail himself, but he'll damn sure never fail the American people.
That is why, I think, Pat Robertson endorsed Rudy in 2008: Robertson knows that on matters of public policy, Rudy is, in effect, a social and cultural conservative.
As for electability, well, that's what campaigns are for: to demonstrate political strength and popular appeal. Rudy didn't fare so well last time; but as I say, it's a new season politically, with a new slate of candidates and new issues. And Rudy, should he invest himself in the race, has as good a chance as anyone, I think, to win.
National Review editor Richard Lowry notes, for instance, that, amongst Republican voters, Rudy's essentially tied with Sarah Palin in the latest Fox News poll. Yet no one dismisses Palin's prospects in a crowded GOP primary.
Republicans and the nation are best served by a seriously competitive presidential race that welcomes all comers. Rudolph Giuliani was one of the most successful big city mayors in American history. He has a lot to offer voters. And he should run because he can win.
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