WELL, IF SO, YOU CAN'T BLAME RUDY -- THE NUMBERS LOOK GOOD (ALMOST AS GOOD AS, ER, FOUR YEARS AGO)
Bill Kristol, who gets a lot of things wrong, assures us that Rudy Giuliani is running:
I'm told by two reliable sources that Rudy Giuliani intends to run for the GOP nomination for president in 2012. He may throw his hat in the ring soon.
Rudy's theory of the race: In the fall of 2007, he decided he couldn't compete with both Mitt Romney and John McCain in New Hampshire, and disastrously decided to try to pull back there and pitch his tent in Florida. This year, he'll commit everything to New Hampshire, where he thinks he has a good shot at beating Romney—whom he criticized there earlier this week. He then thinks he can beat whichever more socially conservative candidate(s) is left by winning what are still likely to be winner-take-all primaries in big states like California, New York, and New Jersey....
I'm going to stop right there (I really don't want to think about Rudy, y'know, pitching his tent in Florida or anywhere else). Do I believe this? I'm skeptical. I think Rudy, like his pal Sarah Palin, would like to be proclaimed president; I'm not sure he's serious about a campaign.
But the guy is probably feeling summoned by the poll numbers -- and not just that CNN poll from last month showing him in the lead among Republicans. There's also this week's ABC/Washington Post poll, in which he finishes near the top among GOP voters who are asked which of several candidates they'd "strongly consider" for president (Romney and Palin are at 24%, Giuliani's at 21%). You're probably thinking, "Yeah, but a lot of them absolutely wouldn't vote for him" -- but on that score he's at 27%, not much worse than Bachman or Santorum (23%) and a hell of a lot better than Palin (38%) -- and many of us think she could win the nomination if she half-tried, right?
Fox also has a new poll -- yes, I take Fox polls seriously because they rarely show the kind of number skew you see in Rasmussen polls -- and in that one Giuliani is #2 among Republicans, at 13%, well behind Romney (23%) and ahead of Palin (12%). Of course, this gets us to the early-poll problem -- at this stage in the race, voters often pick names they know. They did it to Lieberman in '03 and, well, Giuliani in '07. So who knows what the hell this means.
Dig into the Fox numbers and you see that, while no Republican tested actually beats Obama in the general election, Giuliani (gulp!) comes the closest, 47%-43%. He's the only one who gets double-digit support (albeit barely) among Democrats. He runs the best among women (though all the Republicans tested -- Rudy and Mitt plus Palin, Gingrich, Pawlenty, and special guest star Chris Christie -- get shellacked in that category). He and Romney are the only ones who beat Obama among independents, but he wins by double digits.
So you can see why you don't necessarily have to love yourself as much as Giuliani does to be Giuliani and be seriously considering a run.
You know what worries me the most in these polls? The fact that Giuliani's presence doesn't seem to be taking votes away from Romney. I've been assuming that there's a limited non-crazy portion of the electorate, and if it's subdivided, Romney will lose to a truly crazy person. But now I'm not so sure.
In the Fox poll, Republicans are asked,
How important is it to you that the Republican nominee agrees with you on most major issues?
A majority -- 53% -- says "very important," but it's a bare majority; 43% say "somewhat important."
The next question is:
How important is it to you that the Republican nominee can beat Barack Obama?
On that one, 73% say "very important."
So these folks may be ready not to cast crazy-base votes. They may be ready to hold their noses and vote for an electable candidate who doesn't hit all insane litmus tests.
Which probably means Romney, not Giuliani. That worries me. Or it could all just be the pick-the-famous-names phenomenon. We'll see.
AND I SHOULD HAVE ADDED... that I don't know how the hell abortion and gay rights figure into all this. The tea party people were supposed to have moved beyond all that social issues stuff, but the state legislators they elected are working tirelessly to restrict abortion everywhere they turn. Do the voters naming Giuliani in this poll just not know, or not remember, his social issues stances? Not to mention his stances on gun control and immigration? Well, if he's a threat, they'll be reminded soon enough.