Dear Mr. Lowry,
I suspect I am far from the first to say this, but barring exceptional events between now and then I think the overarching theme for 2008 will be “competence.” As we say in business, nothing counts like execution, and McCain has never been in the executive branch.
Romney can lay some claims here, but speaking as a Massachusettensian, I don’t think they will hold up under scrutiny. In hindsight his decision to not run for reelection was apposite, given that Deval Patrick would likely have ended his political career. Granted, Boston is a place that kills those whom it loves (c.f. Nomar Garciaparra) but in hindsight his handling of big issues here–the removal of UMass president Billy Bulger, the Big Dig, gay marriage all feel tarnished to say the least. Romney has the feel of competence but not the follow-through.
By comparison, Giuliani’s achievement in the day-to-day operation of government is arguably unmatched in the past half century. While motivated by big ideas, the success was all in the implementation and follow-through, with a government larger and more complicated than all but perhaps four states, and quite a few countries.
If social conservatism means anything it must surely begin with basic law and order. Giuliani proved over many years that on these issues he was a man of the highest honor and principles. In this regard he is something of an unusual character in that moderate Republicans have typically been squishy across the board.
ME: There’s no doubt that Giuliani’s skill at running what until then had been a dysfunctional government failing to cope with a deteriorating city looks better and better, given the current national political circumstances. Rick Brookhiser has an excellent piece making the case for Giuliani in our new issue. Again, as I’ve noted before, NR doesn’t yet have a candidate in the ‘08 race. And personally I think it’s too soon to be jumping on any bandwagons. Let’s see how these guys actually run.