Jennifer, I agree with your argument in part and disagree with it in part. I think that it is correct that 9/11 increased the salience of national security issues and general hawkishness among conservative voters, and this change has benefited Giuliani. But I don’t think it has provoked much of a shift in what social conservatives expect from a Republican presidential candidate — the casting about for a “true conservative” candidate and rank-and-file dissatisfaction with the current GOP field owe largely to social issues.
A bigger factor (which you mention in your piece today) that has helped Giuliani is the split in the conservative vote. Fred Thompson grew in popularity when it appeared Mitt Romney’s candidacy was stalled. While Thompson was testing the waters, Romney recovered somewhat. Now they are both doing reasonably well competing for the same pool of voters. On top of that, Ames has at least temporarily raised Mike Huckabee’s standing in several state polls. Huckabee is now a third candidate splitting these voters. And a few social conservatives are sticking by John McCain.
Moreover, all of these non-Giuliani candidates have their own problems with conservatives. For some, it is that their conservatism is of a recent vintage. For others, it is that their positions on issues like taxes and campaign finance reform have not been anymore reliably conservative than Giuliani’s social stances. So Giuliani is doing better than one might have expected in 2000, but social conservatives haven’t coalesced around a rival candidate. Whether they ever do may be what decides the contest for the nomination.