Saturday, October 06, 2007

The Guiliani Quandary: Will Rudy Shatter the GOP or Ensure its Victory

NEW YORK – Left unsaid in the most wide open presidential campaign of the last half-century is the deeper battle raging beneath the horse race. For the Republicans, this is more than a race to retain the White House and prevent the Democrats from gaining filibuster-proof power in the Senate. 2008 is becoming a battle for the soul of the Grand Old Party, an internal battle that might become no less intense than 1860's Democratic presidential fight between Northern Democrat Stephen A. Douglas and Southern Democrat and incumbent Vice President John C. Breckenridge.

Is it possible that the Republicans of 2008 could implode over social and religious issues in the way the the Democrats shattered over the issue of slavery? Probably not. But, the historical parallels are certainly compelling. Could the possible success of Rudolph Guiliani's candidacy be the catalyst for a dramatic realignment of the Republican Party – away from the social/religious conservatism that successfully propelled it to presidential, congressional, and state/local-level victories for more than a quarter-century?

If Christian Conservatives are true to their words, we believe Guiliani may be more transformational to the GOP than Ronald Reagan.
His nomination might just crack it into pieces.

Or, impossibly, if he's able to strike the right deal with Focus on the Family's James Dobson and Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council to ensure the nomination of Christian Conservatives to the federal judiciary, the Supreme Court, and the vice presidency – to guarantee that they don't bolt from the GOP to form a third party – Guiliani might become president.

This is the quandary for the Republican Party: nominate Rudy and make Blue States like New York, California, and New Jersey real challenges for the Democrats, hold battlegrounds like Missouri, New Hampshire, Ohio, and Florida – or lose the White House. And, if you read the most recent state polls, Guiliani is the only Republican with a real shot in the general election. For Christian Conservatives, there's the rub: abandon decades of ideological fortitude and a winning GOTV strategy – or accept a "new world order" and nominate the man Hillary Clinton fears most, the man who would force Hillary – or any Democratic candidate spend real money to merely hold New York, California, New Hampshire, and New Jersey.

The Christian Right's concerns are legitimate. And, their imprint on the 1988 primaries through the candidacy of Rev. Pat Robertson helped to frame George H.W. Bush's general election campaign – and to build a powerful Christian Conservative political infrastructure, virtually ensuring Republican ascendancy at the local, state, and national level for almost two decades.

Unfortunately, in wrapping the Republican brand with the cloth of Christian Conservatism, the GOP has ceded much of "Metro America" to the Democrats, preventing the party from building a stronger base fiscally-conservative/socially-moderate Blue State Republicans. To those voters, Guiliani might be the answer to their prayers. And that could be scary to the Christian Right. And if they bolt, well, all bets are off.

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