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Jewish World Review
January 29, 2008
/ 22 Shevat 5768
How Rudy could have won
Debra J. Saunders
While the rest of punditry dumps on Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani
for his Florida strategy which, to put it mildly, does not seem to be working
I have to wonder if Giuliani's biggest mistake was not touting himself as the only
supporter of abortion rights in the Republican primary. I think he'd be faring
better today if he had run as a security hawk and a fiscal hawk, but a social
After all, GOP presidential hopefuls John McCain and Mike Huckabee oppose abortion
rights. Ditto Republican candidate Mitt Romney even if he promised in 2002 that,
as Massachusetts governor, he would "protect a woman's right to choose." Giuliani
is the only Republican who wants to leave government out of a woman's reproductive
One year ago, the story line on Giuliani was that he was the GOP front-runner
despite the fact that he disagreed with the GOP base on abortion rights and civil
unions. Now, the story line ignores Giuliani's positions completely and focuses on
the fact that the former New York mayor has not even been among the top-three
finishers in many early state elections.
It's painful to watch. Giuliani finished behind the screwball Ron Paul he's
against the government requiring immunizations and wants to get rid of the Food and
Drug Administration in Iowa, Michigan, Nevada and South Carolina.
RealClearPolitics.com HorseRace blogger Jay Cost points out that the 2008 primary
"schedule was not (Giuliani's) friend." In Iowa, New Hampshire and Michigan,
Huckabee, McCain and Romney found a state that offered them "a local niche kind of
appeal." When Giuliani pulled major campaigning from those states and announced
he was saving his fire for Florida hizzoner's support in those key states melted.
It may seem counterintuitive to take a stand that most party members do not
embrace. According to a recent AP poll, two-thirds of Democrats but only
one-third of Republicans believe abortion should be legal.
Nonetheless, a year ago, when GOP voters knew Giuliani's pro-choice position, they
liked him the most because they saw him as a strong leader. After a year of
soft-pedaling his abortion position, he doesn't look so strong.
A year ago, some abortion foes respected the fact that Giuliani didn't flip-flop on
abortion to win the nomination. They also cared about electability in November 2008
and realized that they'd be better off with a president who, if he would not try
to repeal Roe vs. Wade, at least would support parental notification laws and would
not appoint liberal judges.
Meanwhile, Giuliani's failure to play up his support for abortion rights kept
pro-choice Republicans from rallying behind him. Cost noted that exit polls showed
that 52 percent of New Hampshire voters believe that abortions should be legal
yet Giuliani was the pick of only 11 percent of those voters. If Giuliani had tried
to reach out to the Granite State's pro-choice voters, he could have been a
While there are fewer pro-choice Republicans in Michigan (about 35 percent) and
South Carolina (about 25 percent), Cost observed, "In a multi-candidate field, this
might have been a missed opportunity for Rudy."
Why didn't Giuliani play up his support for abortion rights? I asked former Gov.
Pete Wilson, who won California statewide office as a pro-choice Republican and has
"It's certainly no secret, where he stands on the issue," Wilson answered. "The
economy is a greater issue. The war on terrorism is a greater issue."
Yeah, but: Other candidates are strong on the economy and terrorism, too.
Giuliani's appeal was that many Americans saw him as the man you wanted with you if
your back is to the wall. Then, as the election wore on, voters saw a candidate who
tried to distance himself from his moderate stands on social issues. The firebrand
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