“On the federal judiciary, I would want judges who are strict constructionists,” Giuliani answers. “I have a very, very strong view that for this country to work, for our freedoms to be protected, judges have to interpret, not invent, the Constitution.”
Down here, of course, constructionist is code for pro-life. Supporting constructionist judges while remaining pro-choice is a Clinton-quality triangulation: It keeps the pro-lifers at bay without a Romney-esque flip on abortion. Half the crowd whoops, half sit on their hands. No one boos, perhaps out of deference to 9/11.
But even 9/11 has its limits. Later, I do a little push-polling of my own. I ask Max Kaster, a local pastor and party chair for Calhoun County, a half-hour south of Columbia, what people down here would think of America’s Mayor if they knew he had moved in with a gay couple after separating from his second wife. “Really?” Kaster says. He fiddles with a lapel pin that combines an American flag and a cross. “I think that would roll a lot of people’s socks down.”
September 11 or no September 11, Rudy’s still vulnerable on social issues. No matter how skillful his pandering, there are those on the right who simply won’t vote for a pro-choice, pro-gun-control, pro-gay-rights candidate. Giuliani’s supporters like to point out that the South is trending more moderate. Still, Rudy is seeking an office that has been held by a centrist southern Democrat or right-leaning Republican southerner or westerner for four decades. The last president from the northeast was JFK.
It’s true that 9/11 gives Rudy credibility on Iraq, but not much. If the war continues to go badly—as just about everyone believes it will—Rudy’s pro-Bush, pro-surge stance, like McCain’s or anyone else’s, for that matter, could still derail him.
Rudy’s lack of experience is a weakness as well. The highest elected office Giuliani has ever held is mayor, and no one has ever made the leap straight from City Hall to the White House. The chatter among political insiders is that even 9/11 can’t cover that up. “There’s a reason Giuliani’s using 9/11 as an asset,” says Bob Shrum, political consultant to a half-dozen Democratic presidential candidates (not to mention David Dinkins). “It’s his only asset. He’s not even running on his mayoral record. He’s running on a few weeks. September 11 doesn’t change the fact that Rudy has no foreign-policy experience, and his foreign-policy record is limited to having the same position on Iraq as George Bush.”
Rudy’s campaign team is green in terms of national elections. His inner circle remains the same as that of a decade ago: Peter Powers, a longtime Rudy friend and former chief deputy mayor, lawyer Dennison Young, aide de camp and former chief of staff Anthony Carbonetti, and spokeswoman Sunny Mindel. Outsiders are viewed with skepticism, and Memogate, to their way of thinking, only justified that attitude. (Fingers were quickly pointed at Anne Dickerson, the campaign’s head fund-raiser and a former Bushie. She was summarily demoted to consultant.) Naming Mike DuHaime as campaign manager in December didn’t particularly impress political pros. Although talented, the 33-year-old DuHaime is not a proven winner. In 2000, he was deputy campaign manager of a failed New Jersey Senate run. In 2004, he ran Bush-Cheney’s Northeast campaign, which resulted in no breakthroughs and the switching of New Hampshire from red to blue. In the last cycle, DuHaime was the RNC political director in the year when the GOP gave back Congress.
On the policy side of the campaign, Giuliani insiders speak reverentially about the candidate being put through “Simon University,” a series of informal public-policy seminars chaired by Bill Simon. Alas, Simon is perceived in his native California as something of a lightweight. His 2002 California gubernatorial bid was essentially a series of train wrecks punctuated by the release of a photo purporting to show then-Governor Gray Davis receiving a campaign check in his office, an illegal act. The only problem was, the image turned out to be from somebody’s home. In New Hampshire, Giuliani hired outgoing state party chairman Wayne Semprini as his state director. Semprini was party chair for only one year, just long enough for his party to lose two congressional seats and the statehouse. In Iowa, Giuliani has been slow out of the gate; his biggest announcement was the support of Congressman Jim Nussle. Like Simon, Nussle’s claim to fame was a failed 2006 gubernatorial campaign.
Money-wise, Rudy has lined up some top-shelf donors, including Home Depot founder and former New York Stock Exchange director Kenneth Langone, whose Wall Street connections could bring millions. He also has the support of Roy Bailey, a former finance chair of the Texas Republican Party who provided some of the seed money for Giuliani Partners. Last month, Bailey organized a Houston fund-raiser for Rudy that raised hundreds of thousands of dollars. In California, Bill Simon recently coordinated a series of well-attended fund-raising events as well. But John McCain’s alliance with Bush, reluctant though it may have been, locked up GOP rainmakers like Texan Robert Mosbacher and lobbyist Thomas Loeffler a long time ago. And because Rudy was relatively late to the table, he may have missed landing the support of potentially sympathetic high rollers like Henry Kravis. Still, it’s early in the game for everyone—no one has yet raised anywhere near the money they’ll eventually need—and money flows from poll numbers. Anyone who can get and maintain a lead still has enough time to raise a fortune.