It was an interesting and impressive performance. It wasn’t a speech designed around big applause lines, or applause lines at all. Instead, the tone–appropriately–was, “We’re grown-ups here and let’s start a conversation about how we can get along well enough to achieve some important commonly held goals.”
Through much of the speech the crowd was quiet (but very attentive), and there was a humility and sincerity to Rudy that served him well.
I agree with Byron that he opened on a potential false note when he talked about how Christianity is about inclusion. At first, it seemed he was going to argue that, as Christians, his listeners were somehow duty-bound to accept his disagreements with them. Instead, he was making a more profound point about how early Christians won non-believers to their faith through their generous acts of love and forgiveness. I’ve heard my pastor make a similar point.
The other pitfall that it seemed Rudy was headed for through much of the speech was not really going into abortion at all, which would have seemed evasive. Instead, he got to it after an extended discourse on all those things he did in New York that social conservatives could agree with. Not just beating back crime, but fighting pornography, reforming welfare, and challenging government funding of offensive art at the Brooklyn museum. Besides this history, he called for stronger penalties against internet predators, championed school choice (including for home-schoolers), and defended religion’s role in public life.
On abortion, he pledged to “decrease [it] as much as we can,” and to work to create “a culture that respects life.” In addition to the policies reported by Byron below, he said he’d reduce red tape that gets in the way of adoptions, extend the tax credit for adoption, and explore ways to support groups offering alternatives to abortion.
On judges, he said his models for appointees to the Supreme Court would be Thomas, Scalia, Alito, and Roberts. Message: I’ll give you a fifth vote.
It was only after this–after what felt like a lot of areas where social conservatives can agree with Rudy–that he got around to Iraq and the war on terror. So, as a listener, you’re reaction was almost, “Oh, yeah, there’s that too.”
But at the heart of Rudy’s speech were the themes of honesty and leadership. He said that “trust is more important than 100% agreement”; that people really wouldn’t want him to “pretend to change all my positions to fit the prevailing winds”; and that if he did that he’d be a “follower” not a leader. Rudy here was using his very disagreement with social conservatives on key issues to buttress his case that he is sincere in his out-reach–because he’s not a panderer–and that they can depend on him to follow through on the pledges he is making to them. This is a very strong basis for him to make his case.
At the end of the day, of course, it’s a limited case. Rudy doesn’t need these voters to support him in the primary, just to be able to tolerate him now and vote for him later. Rudy said near the beginning he has an “open mind and open heart, and all I ask is that you do the same.” And at the close he said, “I’ll continue to extend my hand to you and I’ll hope you’ll take it up.” Few of these voters will take up it anytime soon, but Rudy surely lessened their resistance to taking it up should he be the nominee.