I have been meaning to write about this for a while, but I hadn’t gotten my act together. Here’s my thesis: Rudy Giuliani and Fred Thompson represent two different models (perhaps even polarities) for where the party goes from here.

Rudy Giuliani appeals to certain kinds of swing voters, for example many kinds of Reagan Democrats with toughness, soccer/security moms with security and social moderation/tolerance/liberalism, etc. In some ways, in a Republican Party whose base is increasingly focused on security, Rudy Giuliani is a natural candidate of that new part of the coalition. And he is seen as "electable." And, as one Member of Congress who is leaning towards Giuliani put it the other day, "They guy was #3 in the Reagan Justice Department. How much of a squish could be really be?" In some sense, one could argue that Rudy is a transformational candidate for the party.

At the same time, Fred Thompson is increasingly appearing to be the candidate of social conservatives. (if that proposition had been offered in 2000, it would have been laughable) Perhaps more precisely, he is becoming a part of the candidate of the existing coalition, which is "with but not of" the social conservative movement. This is especially important. To see why, let’s talk a little bit more about what a Rudy Giuliani nominee would mean.

The first point to make is that the GOP, out of necessity would need to recruit a whole new set of volunteers. As I pointed out last week, pro-lifers form a significant portion of the GOP activist base. Those people will not volunteer for Rudy. Many of those activists won’t even vote for him. Let’s assume, for a second, that the GOP and the Giuliani campaign would be able to recruit a new activist base. This would shatter the grip that social conservative activists have on the grassroots of the party. As I said, transformative. This would be a repeat of the Goldwater revival of the grassroots or the Reagan/New Right revival of the GOP grassroots. Now, I am not sure that they can do that. The Giuliani campaign has very little ground game.

Second, and continuing to assume his success, the transition could be very, very bloody. We would find the volunteers for the swing states at the Presidential level. But could we produce them for Congressional races in places like KS-2, CA-4, CA-11, TX-22, NC-10, etc. In other words, places that won’t be in play at the Presidential level, but will be at the congressional level. The fact is, the nominee will determine the tone of the campaign. The groups can try to turnout volunteers, but I have trouble seeing literally thousands of home schoolers mobilizing for down-ballot races when Giuliani is at the top of the ticket. So I could easily imagine a scenario in which Giuliani succeeds at the top of the ticket , but we suffer down ballot because we can’t crank out of the phone calls in swing districts. But, over time, Giuliani should be able to attract, as President, a new set of volunteers to revert to a more normal situation. (note that Mitt Romney offers another problem. I predict that with him as the nominee we lose lots of close rust belt congressional seats)

The conclusion that I come to from this is that a Thompson candidacy is getting its support from conservative groups partly to maintain some level of control over the party apparatus. Thompson is not perfect. (who would think that the social conservative groups would rally behind a pro-campaign finance reform, anti-marriage amendment, anti-life amendment candidate?) But he does not flood the party with new activists. And, if you were to believe that the party will not keep the White House in 2008 — a safe bet –, then … he’s a safe bet to keep people in their positions of power.

Now, according to this analysis, I think that John McCain might be a happy medium (war hero, emphasizing security, and the most pro-life 1st tier candidate), but the distrust that the base has for him, especially on things like immigration, may be insurmountable.

Just a thought.


8 Comments

goethean · July 25, 2007 at 2:43 PM

Rudy Giuliani appeals to certain kinds of swing voters, for example many kinds of Reagan Democrats with toughness, soccer/security moms with security and social moderation/tolerance/liberalism, etc.

Really? Giuliani seems to me more likely to be the candidate of frightened children.

eye · July 25, 2007 at 4:30 PM

Whatever dude. Polls are polls. He does the best against the dems.

Bluey Blog | Robert B. Bluey » On My Radar: Thursday, July 26, 2007 · July 26, 2007 at 11:36 AM

[…] • Republicans returning to our core principles – Rep. John Boehner, The Hill • Rudy versus Thompson: Two options for the party – Soren Dayton, Eye on ‘08 • Beware of Higher Cigarette Taxes, Tobacco Company Warns – Susan Jones, Cybercast News Service • The S-CHIP debate: More liberal crud – Editorial, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review • The New Republic Up to Old Tricks – Lisa De Pasquale, Townhall […]

Heading Right » Blog Archive » Rudy Steps In It Again · August 7, 2007 at 3:05 PM

[…] I rather doubt that McCain would settle for the veepancy, and I think Rudy would be shrewder than to thumb in the eye the base that just handed him the Party standard.  But then I would have thought him more discrete than to publicly flaunt such personal RINO sentiments, too. […]

eyeon08.com » Different models for the future of the GOP? · September 2, 2007 at 10:51 AM

[…] Rudy Giuliani could be viewed as either a candidate of social moderates or as the national security candidate. I think that it is more fair to view him as the candidate who represents the resurgence of national security issues in the GOP. I have argued that his candidacy would have a transformative effect on the party. It also seems to me that the Fabrizio poll "Elephant in the Mirror" indicates that there is a "national security first" part of the party that could form the basis of a coalition, along with economic conservatives, that could be enough to win. […]

The Right’s Field » Huckabee and the GOP Future · September 2, 2007 at 1:54 PM

[…] Soren Dayton understands this dynamic. Dayton has argued that Rudy Giuliani could have a “transformative effect” on the GOP in the way that he would put national security issues at the center of the conservative ideological structure. Personally, I’m skeptical that this is “transformative” — it seems to me that Giuliani just offers Bush Plus on foreign policy, but drops Bush’s notional commitment to majoritarian “compassionate” domestic policies, falling back onto a much less-popular sort of AEI economic dogma. But there’s no doubt he does represent a fairly clearly defined option for the Republican party’s future. And again, there’s a very instructive contrast with Huckabee: Mike Huckabee is certainly the most articulate and credible social conservative in the first or second tier. He is also the least conservative candidate on economic issues, as typically understood. Huckabee is the candidate who will make the most explicit attempt to maintain the party’s margins in the working class. The question is whether he will be able to get them to vote in a primary for him. Perhaps, more controversially, he is the candidate of a broader Christian agenda, including worrying about poverty, education, global warming, etc. Moderate and liberal evangelicals and Catholics have been swing votes in the recent national elections, and you can see him making a strong play for those. […]

eyeon08.com » Rudy, the conservative movement, their constituents, and power · October 1, 2007 at 9:39 AM

[…] I had argued in July that the Christian Right and the conservative movement had dated Mitt Romney (really flirted) but married Fred Thompson. At least it seemed like an engagement. Between Schiavo, Thompson’s personal life, his apparent personal secularism, his positions on abortion and gay marriage, etc., the engagement is falling through. I also argued that this relationship felt strange but it had a purpose, to maintain a grip on the party apparatus: The conclusion that I come to from this is that a Thompson candidacy is getting its support from conservative groups partly to maintain some level of control over the party apparatus. Thompson is not perfect. (who would think that the social conservative groups would rally behind a pro-campaign finance reform, anti-marriage amendment, anti-life amendment candidate?) But he does not flood the party with new activists. And, if you were to believe that the party will not keep the White House in 2008 — a safe bet –, then … he’s a safe bet to keep people in their positions of power. […]

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