- The Washington Times - Friday, December 22, 2006

Social conservatives — contrary to conventional wisdom — will seriously consider supporting the Republican presidential aspirations of Rudolph W. Giuliani even though he’s a pro-choice, anti-gun New Yorker, political analysts and operatives say.

Republicans in the early primary states in the South and the West may disagree with Mr. Giuliani’s stance on abortion and gun control, but they admire his response to the September 11 attacks and, more importantly, they think he can win in November.

Scott Malyerck, executive director of the Republican Party in South Carolina, an early primary test, said voters recognize Mr. Giuliani as a strong, decisive leader and a decision maker.

“John McCain and Mitt Romney have been working hard in South Carolina over the past year,” Mr. Malyerck said. “Even though Rudy Giuliani has not formally gotten his campaign up and going, he has been treated like a rock star across the state at rallies and fundraisers alike.”

Mr. Giuliani leads every other Republican — including Mr. McCain, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and outgoing Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney — in national and many state presidential preference polls of Republican voters.

Giuliani skeptics admit he’s their party’s top attraction for 2008, but some remain adamant in their opposition.

“If Rudy Giuliani — who is wrong on all of the social issues as well as the Second Amendment and is a blank slate on most other important issues such as judges, taxes and size of government — is the Republican presidential nominee, I would expect a mass exit of most conservatives from the Republican Party in 2008,” warns Richard A. Viguerie, a prominent conservative-movement fundraiser and author.

“Which means if the Republican Party continues to move away from being the party of small government and traditional values, they will cease to be a viable alternative to the Democratic Party, and a new conservative party will certainly arise to be their replacement.”

But for many others, Mr. Giuliani appears to offer the kind of leadership for which they have been longing and the wattage to generate support.

“The most important quality in a candidate is the ability to project competence and leadership, and I think Giuliani has had that reputation since 9/11,” says Tim Morgan, a social conservative and Republican National Committee member from California who this week was named RNC treasurer.

“If you look deeper, beyond 9/11, as mayor in so many ways he turned that city around — he has a solid reputation,” says Mr. Morgan, who says he is not endorsing Mr. Giuliani.

Florida Republican Party Chairman Carole Jean Jordan said that wherever Mr. Giuliani appears, “he sucks all the oxygen out of the room.”

Mrs. Jordan, who said she has no horse in the 2008 race, recalled a fall dinner held by the Walton County Chamber of Commerce where Mr. Giuliani’s star power shined.

“Even the chef, the whole kitchen staff, came out and stood at attention — and the waiters, all the hotel employees, the local sheriff’s deputies — because they heard Rudy, the hero of 9/11, was about to walk into the room,” she said, adding that he took the time to have his photo taken with every one of them.

Delegate-rich Florida will be important because that state — along with New Jersey, Michigan, Missouri and 11 other states — has moved its primary up to Feb. 5, three days after South Carolina’s primary. Iowa’s Republican presidential caucuses, where Mr. Giuliani’s brand of Republicanism may find a cool welcome, are scheduled for Jan. 21, followed by New Hampshire’s primary on Jan. 28.

Because of Mr. Giuliani’s appeal to independent voters, some Democrats see him as a serious threat in the 2008 general election.

Democratic political strategist Paul Goldman says Mr. Giuliani is playing the rebel role that Mr. McCain — once the independents’ favorite — played so effectively in 2000, when he won the New Hampshire primary and put a scare into the campaign of establishment favorite George W. Bush.

Mr. McCain has shed his “maverick” status and is increasingly backed by the Republican establishment. A slew of former top Bush operatives are on the payroll of the unofficial McCain 2008 campaign.

Veteran Republican strategist and longtime Giuliani adviser Frank Luntz says the mayor’s leadership qualities matter more to Republican primary voters than specific issues do.

“That’s where Giuliani has an advantage over everybody else,” Mr. Luntz says. “He has managed a government in times of crisis — and done it successfully. No other candidate can say that. The others can only say what they would do. Rudy can say what he did do and how he did it.”

Mr. Giuliani has lined up a team of veteran Republican operatives and supporters who say their man has other key advantages for 2008 — and a record of overcoming political challenges.

“People doubted Rudy’s chances when he ran for mayor of New York in 1993 — Democrats outnumbered Republicans five or six to one,” says John Gross, who is treasurer of the presidential exploratory committee Mr. Giuliani formed last month.

“Once elected, he did what he was elected to do: dramatically reduced crime and turned the city around, reduced the welfare rolls,” says Mr. Gross, a Giuliani loyalist.

Sandy Pack, the chief financial officer for Bush-Cheney ‘04, has signed on to play the same role for Mr. Giuliani’s exploratory committee. Also Mike DuHaime, the Republican National Committee’s political director and an associate of Republican National Chairman Ken Mehlman’s, has signed on as chairman of the Giuliani exploratory committee.

Mr. Giuliani already has pulled off a coup in California, where he is buddies with another Republican superstar, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Mr. Giuliani will deliver the keynote address to the state party’s convention in February in Sacramento.

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