Giuliani Connects With ‘Morals’ Voters on Security
By: Wall Street Journal
Hard-Line Stances Play Well With Base Of Republican Party
By JAY SOLOMON
October 17, 2007
WASHINGTON — Republican presidential front-runner Rudy Giuliani is finding that tough foreign-policy stands are helping him connect with social and religious conservatives, constituencies where the former New York City mayor’s support has been seen as weakest.
Those conservatives, a bedrock of the party’s base in recent elections, are unhappy with Mr. Giuliani’s positions in support of abortion and gay rights, as well as his two divorces. But Mr. Giuliani’s positioning himself as a tough leader in the fight against Islamist extremism and threats from Iran, and his staunch support for Israel, have kept many social conservatives in his corner despite their misgivings about his stands on domestic issues.
“I think that a lot of evangelical voters see abortion as a moral issue, but a lot of them also see defending Western civilization against this enemy as a moral issue,” says Gary Bauer, a religious-conservative activist and 2000 Republican presidential hopeful. “Where the jury is out is once the voters understand where [Giuliani] is on both of those things, will the war still trump those social issues?”
Strong backing of Israel, in particular, is important to some religious conservatives, who have developed their own close bonds to the Jewish state and its oversight of Biblical lands.
This support was on display yesterday, when the candidate told a Republican Jewish Coalition gathering here that as president he would be deeply suspicious of land-for-peace talks with the Palestinians. He said neither Americans nor Israelis should negotiate with militant Islamic leaders and organizations that he believes are committed to destroying Western society.
He drew applause while recounting a 1995 episode when he ordered that the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat be ejected from a concert for world leaders at Lincoln Center. “The reason I did it was that I knew from my own investigations of Arafat that he was a murderer and a terrorist,” Mr. Giuliani said. “This whole idea of holding him on a morally equivalent plane to the prime minister of Israel…was a terrible, terrible mistake.”
Recent polls suggest that Mr. Giuliani’s hard-line positions are helping him make inroads with social and religious conservatives. A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll conducted late last month found that 39% of people who identified themselves as evangelical Christians had a “somewhat positive” impression of Mr. Giuliani.
Republican candidate Fred Thompson, the former Tennessee senator who has campaigned as a Reagan-style conservative, registered a “very positive” impression among 26% of evangelicals. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, whose Mormon faith has raised concerns among some conservative Christian voters, made a “somewhat positive” impression with 31% of those evangelicals polled.
Mr. Giuliani may be playing a risky political game by identifying so closely with the personalities and policies promoted by President Bush’s administration. Polls show that the American population is increasingly disillusioned with the war in Iraq and that there is little support for a military strike against Iran. Mr. Giuliani’s hard-line stance may succeed in helping him shore up support from the Republican base, but, if he is nominated, could undermine his prospects during the general election, analysts say.
“Surrounding yourself with these neoconservative voices isn’t sustainable,” said Steven Clemons, of the New America Foundation, a centrist Washington-based policy institution.
The former mayor has taken perhaps the hardest line among the presidential candidates on Iran. He has repeatedly stated his willingness to use military force to prevent Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons. And he has described Iran’s leadership as an irrational force with whom negotiations are probably hopeless.
“We need to isolate the terror-funding theocrats” in Tehran, Mr. Giuliani told the Republican Jewish Coalition. “You have to stand up to dictators, to tyrants and to terrorists” as “weakness invites attack.”
Despite the Bush administration’s troubles in Iraq, Mr. Giuliani’s campaign is recruiting from neoconservative think tanks and publications that lobbied the White House to launch the 2003 invasion. Mr. Giuliani has courted them as allies in the fight against Islamist extremism, say his aides.
Last week, Mr. Giuliani’s team named David Frum, the former Bush speechwriter, as a senior foreign-policy adviser. Mr. Frum helped coin the phrase “axis of evil” in describing the governments of Iran, Iraq and North Korea during President Bush’s 2002 State of the Union speech.
Mr. Giuliani will seek to woo more conservative Christian voters when he speaks Friday at the Values Voter Summit in Washington, along with other major Republican candidates.
–Michael M. Phillips contributed to this article.
Write to Jay Solomon at firstname.lastname@example.org
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