If British Conservatives had their choice of Republican presidential candidate the former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani would be the overwhelming favourite. Their enthusiasm perplexes many American conservatives. Linking to the BritainAndAmerica finding, Kathryn Jean Lopez of NRO stated simply: Thankfully They Don't Have A Vote.
Although Giuliani holds a (decreasing) lead in the GOP field - dented by some missteps, the emergence of Fred Thompson (now running at 20%) and strong showings in the bellwether states by Mitt Romney - the analysts think that the resistance of Lopez and other social conservatives will eventually defeat Giuliani. Veteran political analyst Charlie Cook has said that Giuliani winning the GOP nomination would force him to rethink everything he has ever learnt about Republican presidential politics. Christian conservatives - who have been talking more and more favourably about Romney despite his Mormon faith - warn that Giuliani can't reach the White House without them. Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention, who has criticised Giuliani's family life, has warned that Christian conservatives are as essential to any chance of a GOP candidate winning as black voters are indispensable to a successful Democrat candidate.
The socially liberal views of 'America's Mayor' certainly haven't hauled him below the water yet. He's the national frontrunner and is competitive in socially conservative states such as South Carolina. He may be doing well among social conservatives because of the high priority they attach to the war on terror. All GOP voters put the war in Iraq as their top issue (31%) and 17% choose terrorism and security. Only 7% name abortion and 1% name gay marriage.
The Republican Party cannot afford to elevate suspicion of homosexuality into a defining feature of its identity. The nation that has laughed at Will & Grace and filled cinemas showing Brokeback Mountain is changing fast. Twenty years ago there was a 51% to 42% majority in favour of a right to fire homosexual teachers. Now 66% to 28% disagree with such a right. A nation that was once split on whether AIDS was a punishment for sexual immorality is now 72% to 23% in disagreement with the contention.
In the 21 May edition of the left-leaning New Republic, Thomas B Edsall wonders if Giuliani is best able to lead the Republican Party into this new era of public opinion and whether a wider 'Giulianism' represents the future of the Republican party. His no-nonsense, pro-cop, anti-tax positions won him widespread support amongst lower and middle income voters in New York. Some GOP strategists hope that this same worldview might lure Reagan Democrats back to the Republican coalition. Unlike many other social liberals within the Republican party, Giuliani is a hardliner on other issues of importance to the Republican base. In addition to a hawkish approach to Iraq (he has said that Bush-Rumsfeld deployed far too few troops) he is a tax cutter, a fiscal conservative and very tough on crime. His record in New York confirms that these are longstanding positions. His time in New York politics also show him to be a polariser, writes Edsall. He doesn't know how to play softball. Edsall predicts that he will use the same tough rhetoric against terrorists that he used against criminals while he was Mayor. He has already accused Democrats of waving the white flag on defence and of wanting to return to the defensive stance of pre-9/11. These techniques will help rally the Republican base behind him - particularly if Hillary Clinton is the Democrat candidate. The latest polling suggests that her lead over Barack Obama is widening.
Post 9/11 hawkishness may now be the glue holding the Republican coalition together but Giuliani cannot afford to insult social conservatives. A socially conservative running mate like Sam Brownback, opposition to gay marriage and support for Supreme Court appointments like Alito, Roberts, Scalia and Thomas will be necessary commitments from Giuliani if he is to emerge as the Republican nominee and avoid a third party candidate from the Christian right.