The claim that Rudy Giuliani’s misguided primary strategy was responsible for his presidential campaign’s demise is wrong.
Giuliani went down because rank and file Republicans soured on him after they learned about his very liberal positions on social issues, his messy personal life, and his questionable business associates and clients.
Last year Rudy was riding high in the national polls and raised millions of dollars in red states like South Carolina and Florida thanks to his celebrity status. Scores of rich people lined up to plop down $2,300 to be photographed with “America’s mayor.” (Compared to those who paid $100,000 to hear Rudy’s canned leadership speech, $2,300 was a bargain.) Traveling with Giuliani, The Wall Street Journal’s Daniel Henninger, concluded, “Giuliani didn’t have supporters; he had fans.”
Celebrity Rudy also received plenty of help from neo-conservatives. They pounded away in Op-Ed pieces and on talk shows that the “Italian Stallion” was the right guy for the GOP despite his leftist pro-abortion, pro-gay rights and anti-gun positions. And by late summer, Washington’s GOP establishment and media moguls began to fall for the neo-conservative contention that Giuliani was the inevitable nominee.
However, what the New York neo-cons and the D.C. crowd missed or ignored were public opinion polls that consistently indicated that the vast majority of Republicans did not know in the summer and fall that Giuliani was a thrice-married social liberal.
Giuliani’s campaign began to unravel in December 2007 when the base of the Republican Party finally focused on his heavy political baggage. NBC’s Tim Russert deserves the credit for getting their attention. Asking Giuliani on his Sunday "Meet the Press" program if it was appropriate for Secret Service agents to guard a president’s mistress dumbstruck millions of Republicans. Iowa’s senior senator, Chuck Grassley, spoke for many Republicans when he said “The New York lifestyle hasn’t gone over [in] some places. It seems like the more people got acquainted with [Giuliani] the less they liked him.”
Giuliani received only 2 percent of the South Carolina primary vote because his liberal record caught up with him. The millions he raised in Greenville and Spartanburg did not translate into votes. Ditto Florida.
Celebrity status and a well-heeled campaign treasury does not guarantee victory. Giuliani spent north of $50 million to win one delegate. (This breaks John Connally’s 1980 spending record of $12 million for one GOP delegate.)
Republican consultant Nelson Warfield best described the Giuliani candidacy: “It bordered on science fiction to think that someone as liberal on as many issues as Rudy Giuliani could become the Republican nominee. Rudy didn’t even care enough about conservatives to lie to us. The problem wasn’t the calendar; it was the candidate.”
While Wall Street and country club Republicans control campaign money, Giuliani’s failed candidacy proved that socially-conservative main street and Wal-Mart Republicans control the outcome of primaries.
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George J. Marlin is the author of "Squandered Opportunities: New York’s Pataki Years." His Web site is www.streetcornerconservative.com.
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