Friday, February 16, 2007

Rudy's In The Race

During Wednesday's 'Larry King Live' show on CNN, former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani put paid to the speculation, and finally confirmed he would be running for President in 2008.

Giuliani is 63-years old, and thus currently the same age that George W Bush will be when his sorry Presidency ends. Hence despite being ten years younger than main Republican rival John McCain, he will know that it's probably a case of 'now or never' despite the obvious downside of inheriting the post-Bush poison chalice.

In many ways, he is facing the opposite problem to young Democrat superstar Barack Obama who lacks experience, yet knows he will never have a better chance to scoop the main prize. Moreover Obama will not fancy facing either a Republican incumbent in 2012 (and thus trying to 'do a 1992 Clinton'), or waiting until 2016 by which time the magic might have worn off.

Giuliani is obviously a popular figure in New York, most commonly associated with his 'zero tolerance' approach to crime-fighting in the 1990s, and with the calm leadership he showed in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. Like most high-profile politicians, his career has not been without controversy, emphasised most bizarrely perhaps in the fact that his first marriage was annulled in 1968 when it turned out his bride was in fact his second cousin. And I bet you thought that only happened in West Virginia?

However speaking as someone who generally abhors anyone claiming to represent the Republican Party, it is hard not to warm to Giuliani because he is so charismatic and human. He would be a brave selection by the party given both his New York background and relatively liberal (by Republican standards) views on issues as controversial here as abortion and gay marriage. But barring a military miracle in Iraq, the Republicans will approach the 2008 election firmly on the back foot, and perhaps a candidate like Giuliani can put enough distance between himself and his predecessor's failed policies (to appeal to independents), whilst not being so liberal that it repels the gun-toting religious 'good ole boys' that tend to vote red.

Aside from Giuliani and McCain, few 'serious' Republican candidates have shown their hand yet, except perhaps Mitt Romney, whose biggest PR problem (for reasons I've not fully understood) seems to be the fact that he's a Mormon. When I first read about his candidacy, I thought there was a misprint and that Romney was merely a 'Moron', causing me to muse, "...oh no, here we go again."

Not surprisingly, and much like Obama, plenty of others on the left are rubbing their hands with glee at the prospect of a comfortable electoral win, and as well as hot favourite Hilary Clinton, John Kerry's 2004 sidekick John Edwards has officially declared his influential hand. Even Al Gore, fresh from the success of his environmental campaign film, is being encouraged to run despite the pain of his marginal 'defeat' in 2000, so for now in football terms the candidates are 'setting their stall out', not attacking with cavalier intent.

If I was a betting man, I'd fancy a Clinton vs Giuliani face-off, pitching the current New York state senator against the former New York City mayor, thus ensuring the country's biggest city is at the very heart of the election media coverage. Despite Clinton being near odds-on to win the whole election (let alone the Democrat candidacy), I would infact seriously fear for her chances against Giuliani, perhaps resulting in a soul-destroying defeat for the Democrats which might hasten the party's implosion in a fog of infighting and denial. By pitching a centrist Democrat against a centrist Republican, the party campaigners risk asking the electorate to vote on the basis of charisma not policies, and Giuliani in my view would win that battle hands-down.


At 11:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very interesting comments although I feel you may be over-estimating Giuliani's chances to some degree.
Problem for Rudy, as you probably know is his marital history. The very public and bitter collapse of his last marriage (he's onto his third one now)leaves him wide open to attack on all the big moral issues.
By contrast, Hilary is (and how ironic is this for a Clinton?) utterly bomb-proof in her personal life.
They threw crap at her for eight years in the White House and nothing stuck so she has nothing left to hide.
By contrast, Rudy has a whole bunch of skeletons in his closet from his cheating on his second wife through to his dealings with people like Bernie Kerik that could burn him up bad.
The other big problem for Giuliani is that the Evangelicals just will NOT turn out for him in the numbers they did for Bush.
I don't like these people at all but they are sincere in their beliefs and if the GOP give them a candidate who is a) Catholic, b) Twice divorced and an admitted adulterer, c) Pro Gay marriage, d) Pro-Choice then that's millions of Evangelicals down the pan right there.
If it does come down to Clinton-Giuliani then it would be a tight race but my money would be on Hilary because, truth told, the Clinton's are such a remarkable election winning force and by 2008 the Clinton years will be looking better and better in contrast to the Bush nightmare.
Finally, I have to disagree with your analysis of what a 2008 loss would mean for the Dems.
For my money, I feel that the Dems would survive a loss because their base is diverse but structurally sound.
By contrast, the Republicans, win or lose, will at some stage either have to resolve whether they are an Evangelical party or a party for fiscal conservatives and social moderates. The two cannot exist side by side for very much longer because the Evangelical wing is getting stronger and stronger and forcing many moderates out of the party. Eventually, the non-religious wing of the party (like Bush snr) will have to fight back against this takeover.




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