Giuliani’s Resiliency Is Latest Test


By: Wall Street Journal

Courtship of Republican Base Intensifies as Poll Lead Narrows
By JONATHAN KAUFMAN

Rudy Giuliani’s quest for the Republican presidential nomination is running into turbulence.

After selling himself more successfully than many expected, the former New York mayor’s lead in national polls is narrowing. He could lose four early primary states — Iowa, New Hampshire, Michigan and South Carolina — before reaching more favorable territory, such as Florida, New York and California. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee’s surge is rallying evangelicals and social conservatives who up until now have been divided and dispirited. The business dealings of Mr. Giuliani’s company are under increasing scrutiny.

But like the city he once ran, Mr. Giuliani on the campaign trail is also turning out to be more resilient than expected — drawing on decades of retail politics in New York as he works crowds with ease and vigor.

As his lead has narrowed in the past month, Mr. Giuliani has unleashed a blizzard of television ads in New Hampshire touting his economic record in New York and his toughness on terrorism. He has come out in support of a Supreme Court challenge to gun-control laws in an effort to bolster his support among conservative Republicans. He has lashed out at Mitt Romney in a televised debate, accusing him of running a “sanctuary mansion” because the lawn service Mr. Romney used employed illegal immigrants.

What his supporters and opponents are wondering is whether these moves and his campaign skills will be enough to overcome the hurdles that are coming into clearer and closer view.

On the windswept main street of Rock Rapids, Iowa (population 2,600), a crowd of about 80 people awaits Mr. Giuliani’s appearance at a coffee house. It is tough territory for Mr. Giuliani because of his past support of abortion rights and other liberal issues. The area is strongly pro-life; one of the biggest businesses in town is an evangelical publisher that specializes in home schooling.

Mr. Giuliani, in pinstripe suit, white shirt and tie sweeps in, past two girls holding a sign that reads, “Rudy Can Keep Me Safe.” He shakes hands with the crowd then stands in the middle of the room, among the tables, his hands tented in front of him. Mr. Giuliani looks like the prosecutor he once was, prepared to deliver the courtroom summary that sways the jury.

“This election is going to be a very defining election for the country,” Mr. Giuliani begins. He goes through a litany of his achievements in New York: crime down, welfare-rolls cut, taxes reduced. Though it was his performance during 9/11 that propelled him into the national spotlight, Mr. Giuliani has turned earlier than several other candidates to the economic issues that are troubling voters.

He never mentions his Republican opponents, focusing instead on the general election. “If you have Hillary Clinton or John Edwards or Barack Obama you will have someone who wants to raise your taxes,” he says.

Mr. Giuliani tells the crowd he needs their votes twice — in the January caucuses and again in November.

In the question-and-answer period, social issues like gay rights and abortion never come up. When one man asks about the judges he would appoint, Mr. Giuliani uses the question to show how far he is tacking to the right. “I will appoint judges like the ones President Bush appointed. They are friends of mine. I worked with [Antonin] Scalia, [Samuel] Alito and [John] Roberts at various points in my career.” All are justices considered likely to trim back or vote to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Some of the people in the room aren’t impressed. “Here in the Midwest, doing the right thing when others aren’t watching is important,” says Doug Vanthof, who runs a house-warranty business. “Knowing some of the things about his lifestyle in New York — his social life, his past — that hurts him.”

Still, says Mr. Vanthof, “it’ll be a challenge for Republicans to win the election no matter who is our candidate.” He looks toward the door as Mr. Giuliani leaves. “Whoever we pick, there’s never the perfect guy,” he says.

Most candidates spend a great deal of time on the campaign trail touting their records in their home state or in the Senate — the bills they sponsored that cleaned up rivers or put more police on the street or raised test scores. Mr. Giuliani benefits from the millions of people who, on Thanksgiving, Christmas and summer vacations, have experienced what many consider his legacy. Call it the tourist vote.

“We were up in New York in September,” says Jordan Wakeland, as she waits behind a rope to catch a glimpse of Mr. Giuliani as he attends the final Nascar race in Miami. “The subways were a lot cleaner. It seemed safer. He single-handedly did it — he cleaned up New York.”

The Giuliani campaign argues that after two razor-thin presidential elections, masterminded by Bush political strategist Karl Rove, that were aimed at mobilizing the Republican conservative base and turning them out in record numbers, the party needs a new strategy that reaches out to independents and moderate voters. Republicans can’t beat the Democrats next year by conceding New York, California, Washington, Oregon, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, Giuliani strategists say. Those are all states where Mr. Giuliani believes he can be competitive.

“No other candidate can reshape the electoral map,” says Giuliani campaign manager Michael DuHaime. “Rudy is somebody who can secure the red states and put us on offense and give us a chance in some of the blue. Even if the Democrats hold onto California and Illinois and New York, they aren’t doing it without spending a huge amount of money — and that means less money to spend on Florida and Ohio.”

The Giuliani campaign hopes Republicans in 2008 will be a bit like Democrats in 1992, who accepted Bill Clinton even though he distanced himself from party orthodoxy on some issues. Giuliani aides bet that many Republicans will accept Mr. Giuliani’s history of more moderate social views because they believe he will be the strongest candidate in November. And terrorism, Mr. Giuliani’s strongest issue, is the closest thing to an ace in his party’s hand in the general election.

Supporters hope the 2008 campaign can echo the 1990s in New York when Mr. Giuliani ran as a tough mayor determined to fix a broken city — and won election and re-election although Democrats outnumbered Republicans 5 to 1. Back then, Mr. Giuliani had to win over the left rather than the right, but the skills he showed were the same.

“When he ran for re-election in 1997 he carried the Upper West Side of Manhattan, which was known as ‘Moscow on the Hudson,’” says Randy Mastro, a longtime friend of Mr. Giuliani’s and his chief of staff as mayor. “What appealed to people from Brooklyn and Staten Island and Queens is also appealing in the heartland. Rudy speaks from the heart and gives it straight.”

Write to Jonathan Kaufman at jonathan.kaufman@wsj.com

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