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February 4, 2008

Rudy Giuliani Lost Because He Was No Conservative


The pundits are absolutely stunned. The man they months ago decided would be the Republican nominee is, um, not. Now they are writing columns and editorials and articles about how the man who had it locked up could so quickly give it up. They are shocked.


Well, I am not so shocked. Even when the pundits, the polls and the political markets showed Rudy Giuliani on top, it was obvious that he would not get elected – either in the primary or in the general. The few of us who saw Giuliani going nowhere were not geniuses or psychics, we were just wondering what in the world everyone else was seeing that we weren’t. And boy oh boy were we going against the conventional wisdom.


But yet again, the conventional wisdom was wrong. Giuliani ended up coming in sixth in Iowa, sixth in Michigan, sixth in Nevada, and sixth in South Carolina. Each time he came in behind the maverick John McCain, the flip-flopper Mitt Romney, the boring Fred Thompson, the big-government Mike Huckabee and the same Ron Paul that Giuliani had repeatedly mocked throughout the campaign. In New Hampshire, a moderate Republican’s heaven, he eked out a fourth-place finish. In Florida, where he threw his entire campaign’s resources, Giuliani finished a distant third.


In every corner in the country, Giuliani performed badly. The appropriate reaction should be: “Right. He’s a liberal running in a Republican primary. Why is anyone surprised?”


Instead, the pundits are asking, where did Giuliani’s campaign go wrong?


Those who had crowned Giuliani king of the Republicans have come up with a multitude of justifications for his resounding defeat. His former police commissioner, Bernard Kerik, was indicted. Or people heard that he spent city resources on his girlfriend. Or his campaign aides were all inexperienced friends of his. A popular one is, he’s a New Yorker and Republicans don’t like that in their candidate. (Oh, and they like Massachusettsans?)


But by far the most prevalent rationalization for Giuliani’s fate is now the latest product of conventional wisdom: He skipped the early states. That’s right. Apparently, Giuliani lost because he didn’t compete in the early states, and thus lost momentum and media attention with each consecutive loss.


Of course, there are two major problems with this excuse. First, wasn’t this his planned strategy? Wasn’t he supposed to lose all of the early states and then take the entire nomination in a big, massive, Giuliani wave on Super Tuesday? If anything, his strategy was going perfectly according to plan. Since people knew about his strategy, why didn’t they wait until February 5, or Florida, to cast their votes? It looks like the more Republicans learned about Giuliani, the more they opposed him.


Second, contrary to what everyone assumes, Giuliani did compete in the early states, and quite actively too. He was regularly on the ground in Iowa, until he realized that he would perform poorly there. He focused more on New Hampshire, up through the final weeks of 2007, where he spent millions of dollars and more time than in any other state. But his time and money could not overcome his politics there, either. So he pulled out, and allowed the media to justify his strategy of waiting until Florida and Super Tuesday to really show what he could do.


The reality is, Giuliani competed, and competed hard, to become the Republican nominee. And he lost because he is not a conservative.


You have a northeastern politician who takes the liberal position on social and economic issues such as abortion, gun control, the minimum wage, NAFTA and the line-item veto, but who is strong on national security. And no, I’m not talking about Joe Lieberman – the Senator from Connecticut actually supported NAFTA and the line-item veto.


When you can’t categorize a politician as a conservative based solely on the issues, he is hardly a Republican. Giuliani may not belong in the Democratic Party either, I don’t know. But that definitely doesn’t make him a Republican.


Giuliani knew he was seeking the nomination of a party that was not truly his own. That is why he needed external justifications for his run. One was 9/11. The other was his supposed electability. They weren’t enough. While Republicans appreciate Giuliani’s work in the aftermath of 9/11, they are not ready to put him in charge of the country for it.


And though many bought the electability factor at first, it became increasingly clear that Giuliani would be no more electable than any other Republican nominee. The final, pre-withdrawal RealClearPolitics poll averages show him trailing Hillary Clinton by 11 points and Barack Obama by 16. This is far behind McCain and as bad as Romney and Huckabee. So much for moderation – if Republicans are going to have such an uphill battle in the general election, they might as well fight it with a true conservative.


It is about time we defeat the notion that in order for Republicans to perform well in November, they need to shift to the left. The fact is, Republicans can’t win in November unless they first bring out their own base, and then appeal to independents with correct and convincing conservative positions. Giuliani would have done neither. May his failed run be a lesson to the pundits, Republicans and Giulianis of the future.


© 2008 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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