As usual, I agree with most of what Greenwald says regarding Giuliani’s liberal past, but I think he’s making this too clear-cut. Because it is possible that the religious right won’t find a better nominee and will look past Giuliani’s liberalism. But it’s more likely that a few religious right candidates will stand-up who will insist on making Rudy’s liberalism a prime issue. As has been pointed out before, many conservatives who support Rudy don’t really know much about him, and change their tune once they learn more. And with Rudy looking like the candidate to beat, it won’t take long until a few conservativer-than-thou candidates step-up to make a name for themselves.
Secondly, even if Giuliani gets past the nomination stage, the religious right won’t support him as whole-heartedly as they did Bush. Partly because he’ll never be as palatable to them, and partly because Rove largely sucked that gravytrain dry. They’ve been used and abused for over a decade now, and have little to show for it. And for as much as liberals believe these people are stupid sheep, they’re not. They’ve just been too trusting of authority. But their trust isn’t limitless or unconditional. Even Bush is now suffering because their trust for him died, and they’ll never accept Rudy the way they accepted Bush.
And this leads us to our third point: That Rudy’s going to have to work a whole lot harder than Bush ever did to woe these people. Where Bush could get away with coded language and sly non-promises, Rudy will have to get explicit. It’s not enough for him to use bible words and pretend to be promising things he’s not; Rudy’s going to have to promise real stuff. And the more he promises, the more he’ll ruin his chances in the general election. It won’t even end with the primary. If he wants their vote on election day, he’ll have to keep making those promises. It’s not that they’ll vote for the Democrat, but after eight years of being duped by Bush, they’ll surely stay home if they don’t like what they see. And Rudy’s got to know all this, and is going to be reluctant to give those promises, and that’s going to burn him for the nomination. And in either case, they’re still not going to like him much.
And so that’s why I think Rudy’s presidential campaign isn’t going anywhere. And sure, no other candidate looks as promising, but we’re still a long way off until the nomination season actually kicks in. I remember a Saturday Night Live skit from before the 1992 election, in which all the Democratic nominees didn’t want to run against Bush Sr., and kept insisting that the other candidates were better suited to losing against him. Unless I’m mistaken, the skit didn’t even have Clinton in it; though it did have future Senator Franken as now-forgotten Senator Paul Simon. Needless to say, history has shown that skit to be far more hilarious than originally intended; particularly that people thought Bush Sr. was a formidable candidate who couldn’t be beat.
And we’re still further out from the election than that skit was. Anything can happen, and I think that Giuliani, while not locked-out, has a much steeper hill to climb than Greenwald suggests. Get back to me after Rudy has withstood several months of severe criticism from far-right Republicans, and I might change my tune. But Rudy’s reign as “America’s Mayor” has long since ended and the rightwing attack machine might just blow him away if he doesn’t dance the right dance with every step. And the more he dances, the less he’ll be able to win the general election. But after eight years of Bush’s incompetence, even that might not be enough anymore.
Update: I wrote more about this in my follow-up post: Rove's Republican Fiefdom.