So why is Rudy Giuliani – a thrice-married, pro-choice, Italian Catholic from New York – the leading candidate in a party that has moved steadily to the South, the West and the Right?
The main answer is Hillary Clinton. So many Republicans are so petrified of a new Clinton epic (The Comeback Kid 2) that they’re ready to bite their tongues, hold their noses and swallow their pride if Rudy has a chance to win. As Mike Huckabee summed up the GOP mood: “There’s nothing funny about Hillary being president.”
But that’s not the whole story. Giuliani is running a skillful campaign, reframing the issues facing Republican voters to focus on his strengths (terrorism and crime) while diminishing his weaknesses (abortion, guns and gays). And here, Hillary provides another foil.
She’s a sitting senator, and has never even run a “corner store,” as Mitt Romney puts it; Rudy has run one of the nation’s biggest cities, and Americans much prefer leaders with executive experience. That’s why four of our last five presidents have been governors.
Of course, Americans have a love/hate relationship with New York, attracted by the glitz and repelled by the sin, and Giuliani is exploiting that ambivalence, running as mayor of “Gomorrah on the Hudson” and boasting about all the criminals, vagrants and pornographers he swept off the streets.