I’m surprised that today’s Washington Post poll has received as little coverage as it has. It may have something to do with the fact that the Post focused on the Democratic numbers, but I would say the Republican side is much more interesting (that’s on the second page of the story).
In short, John McCain and Mitt Romney are cratering, and Giuliani is soaring. Now, this will come as no surprise to followers of this space, but it will shock a lot of people who are certain Giuliani can’t win the Republican nomination. Here are the details (emphasis added):
In the latest poll, the former New York mayor led among Republicans with 44 percent to McCain’s 21 percent . . . Former House speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia ran third in the latest poll with 15 percent, while former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney was fourth with 4 percent. Gingrich has not said he definitely plans to run, and without him,
Giuliani’s lead would increase even more, to 53 percent compared with McCain’s 23 percent.
That last one even surprised me a little, for it would give Giuliani an absolute majority of Republicans nationwide. Even I didn’t see that coming. One more surprise comes at the end of this paragraph (emphasis added):
When Republicans were asked to rate Giuliani, McCain and Romney on a series of attributes, Giuliani was seen as the strongest leader, the most inspiring, the candidate with the best chance of winning the general election, the most honest and trustworthy and the one closest to them on the issues. McCain was seen as having the best experience to be president, but only by a narrow margin.
“The one closest to them on the issues”? How many saw that coming? As for the rest, I think it reflects the weaknesses of McCain and Romney more than Giuliani’s strengths. The fact is, McCain’s entire argument for his candidacy is his electability; once MSM dumped him for Chuck Hagel, that argument disappeared. McCain hasn’t had a good campaign day since. Romney, meanwhile, is trying to run as the “conservative candidate” with a record that makes Giuliani look culturally conservative by comparison.
With their supposed strengths not really in play, Republican voters see a Senator who has annoyed them endlessly (McCain) and a one-term Governor who was practically unknown on September 11, 2001. Compared to these two, Giuliani will win easily.
So must we prepare for Rudy as the nominee? Not necessarily; after all, my candidate is not among any of the names mentioned so far. My point is this – given Giuliani’s current strength and the fact that most GOP primaries are “winner take all” affairs, he will be very difficult to beat next year, and it will take a certain type of candidate to beat him. Here’s what that candidate will need:
A consistent record on social issues, especially protection of the unborn: Candidates who called themselves “pro-choice” six years ago (Romney) or tripped over their own words on the subject during their last presidential campaign (McCain) aren’t going to cut it. Republican pro-life voters would prefer candidates who honestly disagree with them over those who try to fudge this. Of course, these aren’t their only options; there are several pro-lifers in the race – Duncan Hunter, Sam Brownback, Tom Tancredo, Mike Huckabee, and Gingrich (I think).
Strength in the W-B-K War (a.k.a. the War on Terror): For Republican primary voters, that means Iraq, too – so Brownback is out.
A record of leadership in defending America: This is where Hunter establishes himself as the class of the field. Whatever one can say about Gingrich (and there are many good things one can say), the fact is this: as a politician, he was on heck of a philosopher. Tancredo, meanwhile, has dedicated himself exclusively to the illegal immigration issue, and while I agree with him on the issue (as does Hunter, BTW), he cannot be a serious candidate unless he broadens his agenda, which he seems determined not to do. Huckabee is better known for battling fat than battling terrorism.
Duncan Hunter is one of only two candidates to serve in the military; the other, of course, is McCain, and like McCain, Hunter served in Vietnam. He has served in Congress for over 26 years, and was Chairman of the Armed Services Committee for three of them. He and he alone has the resume on national security matters and fealty to the critical cultural issues for conservatives, both of which are needed to challenge Giuliani. No one else has that combination, and unless a candidate has that combination, they will not defeat Giuliani.
Can Hunter defeat Giuliani? Yes, he can. Will he? I’m not sure. Unlike any of the other candidates, Hunter’s momentum in the blogosphere is growing, and if he can turn that into money and on-the-ground name recognition, he can step into the role of alternative to Giuliani (what I have previously called “conservative candidate X”), a mantle that McCain and Romney in particular have shown themselves unable to seize.
More to the point, can anyone besides Hunter defeat Giuliani? That answer is clearly no, and I would ask my fellow-right wingers – particularly those of you worried about cultural issues and/or illegal immigration – to keep that in mind. You’re choice is simple: Hunter or Giuliani. Everything else is a political illusion.