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Thursday, October 11, 2007
posted by Justin Hart | 9:12 AM | permalink
I'm continuing to push the theory that this is narrowing down to a two-man race. I could be wrong. Fred might push forward and actually make some momentum... but the polls, the money and the organizational prowess currently favor Rudy and Romney, not Fred.

Leaving Fred aside, to date, I have felt confident that either candidate would be a good choice against Hillary Clinton in the general election. Rudy has a national connection to the electorate and Romney has the "fix-it" mantra.

But today... I worry about judges. I worry about a third party break-off and I worry about Rudy towing the conservative line and possibly tearing the party apart. In short, I'm less convinced of a conservative victory if Rudy is the nominee.

At the National Review conference in January I had a conversation with Kate Obeirne who made the point that if we elect a pro-choice candidate we lose a huge point of differentiation.

Non-social conservatives put forward some good rebuttals to this claim but they cannot deny that pro-life and value voters constitute a major part of the conservative and Republican movement. This is the "third leg" question of Reagan's stool. How powerful is it and will they risk a Clinton presidency to stand up for their core issues?

Two recent pieces have left me wondering about Rudy and his viability as a candidate given a huge value voters block. (Full disclosure here, I work with Ed Meese with the Lighted Candle Society.)

Robert Alt writes in NRO about the historic rift between Rudy and Ed Meese (attorney general under Ronald Reagan:)
Attacking Meese was fashionable at the time — all the Democrats were doing it. And, for someone who had aspirations of running for mayor of New York, this was a position which would undoubtedly curry favor with his constituents. While numerous commentators have lauded Giuliani’s decision to criticize his boss as an example of his independence, it is better evidence of how beholden he was to liberal New York public opinion. If he was willing to sell out Meese to raise his standing with liberal New Yorkers, do we really think that he will withstand the withering criticisms of New York’s elite if he fails to deliver justices in the mold of David Souter?

To be fair, Alt attributes this disdain primarily on the fact that Rudy, as a US Attorney in New York defended (indeed owned up to) statements calling Meese a "sleaze." Alt concludes:
Attorney General Meese is a man of consummate character. He served honorably as attorney general, and, unlike Rudy Giuliani, deserves significant credit for shaping the legal legacy of Ronald Reagan. Anyone who casts aspersions of the kind that Giuliani did against Meese calls his own judgment into question — particularly when he is asking for us to trust that judgment in picking judicial nominees.

Next, I call your attention to a letter sent out by Mark DeMoss (.pdf) to several religious leaders. He also sees a Rudy/Romney race shaping up. DeMoss, who has endorsed Romney for over a year now, believes that the following is at "at stake":

  • Someone is almost certain to appoint two, three, or four justices to the Supreme Court. Do we want that person to be Hillary Clinton, Rudy Giuliani or Mitt Romney?

  • Someone will cast vision and lead Congress on matters of national security, including securing our borders against illegal immigration. Should that be Hillary, Rudy or Mitt?

  • Someone will deal with the definition of marriage in America—and will either defend and model a faithful marriage and strong family, or not. Who should that person be?

  • Someone will either defend unborn life—or defend those who place their rights and desires above those who can’t defend themselves. Would we prefer that Clinton, Giuliani or Romney be in that position?

  • Someone will need to deal with radical Islamic Jihadists and the threat they pose to our nation. As evangelicals, do we want to entrust Hillary Clinton, Rudy Giuliani or Mitt Romney with that critical assignment?

  • Finally, someone will either welcome evangelicals and people of faith into the White House and their administration; or shut them out of deliberations and consideration for various appointments. Would Hillary, Rudy or Mitt be most accepting of evangelicals and people of faith?

These are excellent questions to ask. Notice that DeMoss is pretty much denouncing the third-party route and imploring his colleagues to get someone elected that cares about the "third leg".

He addresses the Mormon question in this paragraph:
Now, I fully recognize some evangelicals take issue with me for supporting a Mormon for the office of president, and I respect their concerns. Indeed, I had to deal with the same concerns in my own heart before offering to help Gov. Romney. But I concluded that I am more concerned that a candidate shares my values than he shares my theology. (If I believed similar theology was paramount in a president, I would be writing this memo urging support of Mike Huckabee.)

Meanwhile Tony Perkins, of the FRC, continues to voice his concerns about a Rudy nomination:
Many social conservatives view Republican Rudy Giuliani and Democratic Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton as "indistinguishable" on key social issues such as abortion, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins just told reporters during a telephone conference call.

Because of that, he said, "it would be very problematic" for many social conservatives if Giuliani wins the GOP presidential nomination. "To sing the ABC song -- anybody but Clinton -- is not enough to rally social conservatives" behind Giuliani, Perkins said.

There are three questions left in this race in my mind:

1) Is this a traditional election where early primary wins provide insurmountable momentum?

2) Will "third leg" voters really bail on Rudy if he gets the nomination or is this just a shot across the bow?

3) Which is more risky: a candidate that can appeal to potentially broader general election base but could split his own party (Rudy) or a candidate that has a smaller national footprint but can pull the base together (Romney)?
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