Friday, March 2, 2007

Front-runner 1

“When Mayor [Rudolph W.] Giuliani takes the stage at the Conservative Political Action Conference at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C., at noon [today], it will mark the end of a long, strange, fitful anti-courtship between the man increasingly known as ‘Rudy’ and a venerable right-wing institution that just doesn’t know what to make of a crime-fighting, welfare-reforming, abortion-supporting, drag-wearing foreign-policy hawk,” Ryan Sager writes in the New York Sun.

“CPAC is the conservative movement’s annual family reunion. Two years ago, Mr. Giuliani was the black sheep. Though he won the yearly CPAC presidential straw poll in 2005, measuring the mood primarily of younger convention-goers, he was decidedly persona non grata with the higher-ups. The former mayor, known for his leadership after the September 11, 2001, attacks, asked to speak — he even offered to waive his usual fee — but was flatly rebuffed. ‘I would assume he wanted to come here to boost his conservative credentials, but we didn’t think that would be useful,’ David Keene, the head of the American Conservative Union, which runs CPAC, sniffed at the time to a Rudy-friendly columnist, Deroy Murdock. …

“The reception Mr. Giuliani gets at CPAC [today] will be telling. … Because, after all, the conservative movement has to begin dealing with the fact that Mr. Giuliani is now not only the ‘viable candidate’ Mr. Keene denied he was, but far more — he is the front-runner.”

Front-runner 2

Former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani was leading 10 other candidates last night in a nonbinding straw poll in South Carolina’s conservative Spartanburg County, the Associated Press reports.

With 71 of 75 precincts reporting, Mr. Giuliani garnered 123 votes. Rep. Duncan Hunter of California was running in second place with 110 votes, and Sen. John McCain of Arizona was third with 86 votes, county Republican officials said.

Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas had 68 votes, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney had 59 votes and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee rounded out the front-runners with 18 votes.

The voting isn’t binding and is conducted as the county party goes about the business of organizing precincts and ultimately sending people to its county convention and the state Republican convention in May.

Booted from Navy

Navy Chaplain Gordon James Klingenschmitt was dismissed from the Navy this week, after waging a lengthy and at times bitter battle to overturn what he insisted was unfair restriction on prayer in the military.

Lt. Klingenschmitt, who has long insisted he was punished for praying in Jesus’ name, was discharged for defying the military’s prayer policy. He challenged that decision, but earlier this week the D.C. Court of Appeals ruled against him, he said, and the Navy ordered him to leave by yesterday.

“It’s now official and final; today I was booted from the Navy,” he wrote in an e-mail. “This morning I signed the [form] ending my 16-year military career.”

His battle began when fellow sailors complained about a service he held for a deceased Navy officer. During the service, he said, he told listeners that Jesus is the way to heaven and for that his supervisor punished him.

Lt. Klingenschmitt eventually was stripped of his chaplain certification after being reprimanded for appearing in uniform at a press conference outside the White House last year and offering a prayer in Jesus’ name. He said he was protesting an unfair policy that banned chaplains from offering public sectarian prayer in uniform outside of an official military chapel or service. After a court-martial last year, he led a successful effort to have the ban overturned.

For now, Mr. Klingenschmitt said, he will focus on speaking engagements. That didn’t get off to the best start though: He was supposed to offer a prayer at the Conservative Political Action Conference this week, but said he was “disinvited.”

‘Nasty woman’

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich on Wednesday called Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton “a nasty woman” who runs an “endlessly ruthless” campaign machine.

The conservative Republican made the surprising comments — after months of taking care not to trash the Democratic presidential front-runner — in a New York Post editorial-board interview.

Asked whether Americans are ready to elect Rudolph W. Giuliani — a leader, the questioner noted, whom former New York Mayor Ed Koch had called a “nasty man” — Mr. Gingrich shot back, “As opposed to a nasty woman?”

Mr. Gingrich added that he thinks the senator from New York will be the nominee, and cited the battle between Mrs. Clinton’s camp and Sen. Barack Obama’s team last week over Obama donor David Geffen’s bashing of the former first couple.

“Nobody will out-mud the Clintons,” said Mr. Gingrich, calling Mrs. Clinton’s political team one of the most talented in U.S. history, but “endlessly ruthless.”

“If they think [Obama] is a real threat, they’ll just grind him up.”

Ney goes to prison

Former congressman Bob Ney reported to a federal prison in Morgantown, W.Va., yesterday morning to begin serving a 2½-year sentence for corruption, a fall from grace spurred by gifts from now imprisoned lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

As inmate No. 28882-016, Ney’s lifestyle will be more austere.

The six-term Ohio Republican, who once drew a $165,200 annual salary, will be getting a wage of 12 cents to 40 cents an hour, depending on his prison job. Movie nights will be in a high school-style auditorium with 1,300 other inmates. He’ll sleep on a bunk bed in a room for 12, the Associated Press reports.

Ney pleaded guilty in October to conspiracy and making false statements, admitting he traded influence for golf trips, campaign donations and other gifts arranged by once-influential lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his associates.

Rocking ‘08

“I think it’s the rock star thing,” muses the conservative blogger known as Ace of Spades (

“George W. Bush was, believe it or not, a rock star when he ran for president. (Well, a lower-level rock star, like the guitarist from Foghat, but still a rock star.) I remember reading, way back in 1999, a reporter being surprised at how much he’d light up a room when he met supporters in their homes, and how he was perceived as having a ‘touch of Elvis’ in him.”

“Barack Obama is a rock star. Rudy Giuliani is a rock star. John McCain was a rock star, but a rock star who fronted a band you never much liked, like the Jefferson Starship, and then really [angered] you … when he changed the band to just ‘Starship’ and recorded ‘We Built This City (On Rock and Roll).’ Mitt Romney isn’t a rock star. He’s solid, he’s got some charisma, he says the right things. But rock star? No. Maybe a sessions keyboardist for Mister Mister.

“This may seem like a silly analysis, but … a candidate needs to be perceived as nearly a Superman of sorts in order for people to be comfortable putting our very lives in his hands. Some guys seem to have that; other guys seem to not have it.”

• Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or

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