A boulder now blocks Rudolph W. Giuliani’s path to the White House: a nagging suspicion among conservatives that he is too liberal for the Republican presidential nomination.
Referring to Giuliani and Senator Hillary Clinton (D., N.Y.), MSNBC commentator Tucker Carlson, for instance, said on the February 11 Hardball: “I will say that, politically, how are they so different?…They are not.”
If Giuliani wants the 2008 GOP nod, he needs to help conservatives across America understand what New Yorkers already know: Giuliani is an anvil-tough, free-market reformer who dramatically limited Gotham’s government.
According to one leading conservative, Team Giuliani suggested that “America’s mayor” make this pitch himself, but the Right rebuffed him.
“Rudy’s people said he would be willing to come and speak, but we
said we didn’t think he’d fit into the program,” American Conservative Union chairman David Keene tells me. In mid-February, the ACU held its annual conference in Washington, D.C. The American Right’s entire rainbow was on display, from the traditionalist Family Research Council, to the openly gay Log Cabin Republicans, to Ayn Rand’s aficionados at the Objectivist Center.
“Rudy’s office called and said his normal fee is $100,000, but that he would appear for free.” Keene adds. “I would assume he wanted to come here to boost his conservative credentials, but we didn’t think that would be useful.” (Communications Director Sunny Mindel says Giuliani Partners did not approach the ACU, although a high-level Giuliani associate says he and an ACU official discussed a possible appearance.)
Keene says he and the ACU’s board denied Giuliani a high-profile platform at their convention. Pity, because there is a solid, right-of-center rationale for President Giuliani:
‐Between January 1, 1994 and January 1, 2002, Giuliani famously supervised a 57-percent overall drop in crime and a 65-percent plunge in homicides.
‐Giuliani curbed or killed 23 taxes totaling $8 billion. He slashed Gotham’s top income-tax rate 21 percent and local taxes’ share of personal income 15.9 percent. Giuliani called hiking taxes after September 11 “a dumb, stupid, idiotic, and moronic thing to do.”
‐Giuliani’s spending increases averaged just 2.9 percent annually. His fiscal 1995 and 2002 budgets actually decreased total outlays.
‐While hiring 12 percent more cops and 12.8 percent more teachers, Giuliani sliced manpower 17.2 percent, from 117,494 workers to 97,338.
‐Rather than “perpetuate discrimination,” Giuliani junked Gotham’s 20 percent set-asides for female and minority contractors.
‐Two years before federal welfare reform, Giuliani began shrinking public-assistance rolls from 1,112,490 recipients in 1993 to 462,595 in 2001, a 58.4-percent decrease to 1966 levels. He also renamed welfare offices “Job Centers.” According to Giuliani’s book, Leadership, in fiscal 2001, City Hall placed 151,376 welfare beneficiaries, a 16-fold increase over 1993’s 9,215 assignments under Democrat David Dinkins.
‐Foster-care residents dropped from 42,000 to 28,700 between 1996 and 2001, while adoptions zoomed 65 percent to 21,189.
‐Giuliani privatized 69.8 percent of city-owned apartments; sold WNYC-TV, WNYC-FM, WNYC-AM, and Gotham’s share of the U.N. Plaza Hotel; and invited the private Central Park Conservancy to manage Manhattan’s 843-acre rectangular garden.
‐Giuliani advocated school vouchers, launched a Charter School Fund, and scrapped tenure for principals.
‐While many libertarians frowned, Giuliani padlocked porn shops in Times Square, paving the way for smut-free cineplexes and Disney musicals.
‐Giuliani barnstorms for conservative candidates. Last fall, he addressed 38 post-convention Bush-Cheney rallies and stumped for Senator Johnny Isakson (R., Ga.), Senator Mel Martinez (R., Fla.), gubernatorial hopeful Dino Rossi (R., Wash.), Rep. Pete Sessions (R., Tex.), and Senator John Thune (R., S. D.), the man who toppled Tom Daschle. “We also taped get-out-the-vote phone messages for 20 candidates,” one Giuliani aide recalls. This February, Giuliani spoke at a fundraiser for Senator Jon Kyl (R., Ariz.).
Add Giuliani’s world-famous brand of tenacious, yet touching, leadership (abundant on September 11), and many conservatives remain unmoved. They liken him to a luxury car with plush seats, dynamite speakers, excellent mileage, and three slight problems: No steering wheel, no tires, and no engine.
Giuliani is a pro-choice Republican who is friendlier to gay rights than to gun rights. This is hemlock to most conservatives. He will struggle to attract Republican primary voters without soothing them on these matters.
Giuliani could start by approaching the middle ground on abortion. Rejecting partial-birth abortion (as even Daschle did), promoting parental notification for minors, and advocating adult waiting periods might encourage socio-cons to reconsider Giuliani.
Beyond discussing their issues and attending their events (when invited), Giuliani could earn conservatives’ eternal gratitude by driving Ms. Hillary off the national stage.
Extracting Hillary Clinton from the Senate “would change everything,” says ACU’s David Keene. “That would be a totally different picture. Rudy has a lifetime record on a host of issues that concerns conservatives. That record could be canceled out, and he could become a conservative hero, by taking Hillary out. We do believe in redemption, but you have to pay some penance.”
“If Rudy could beat Hillary and bring back the vote we lost in New York–which would help strengthen the president’s agenda on judicial nominees and the defense budget–we would be open to giving him a second look,” says Bob Bevill, president of New Hampshire Eagle Forum. “However, he would have to convert to being a Red Sox fan.”
As America’s mayor marches on Washington, his next step should be to snatch the former First Lady’s Senate seat in November 2006. Rudy Giuliani’s best bet for winning the White House in 2008 is to eliminate the American Right’s foe-in-chief two years sooner.