By Deroy Murdock
With his exploratory committee prospecting for 2008, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani leads the GOP's White House hopefuls. His standing atop numerous polls remains unchallenged. Also, his recent endorsement by some former critics suggests social conservatives who explore his record might embrace him as president of the United States.
Surveys consistently demonstrate Mr. Giuliani, not Arizona Sen. John McCain, is this race's front-runner. It's not even close.
In a nationwide Rasmussen Reports survey of 1,050 Republicans and 203 GOP-leaning independents, 24 percent backed Mr. Giuliani while 18 percent chose Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Mr. McCain, at 17 percent, lags behind Miss Rice, a declared non-candidate. "If we assume Rice is not running and allocate her votes," says pollster Scott Rasmussen, "Giuliani would top McCain 32 percent to 22 percent in the Nov. 4-7 study."
Among likely Republican voters polled in Michigan, Mr. McCain beat Mr. Giuliani 33 percent to 25. Rudy romped elsewhere in Strategic Vision's Nov. 6 survey. Mr. Giuliani outran Mr. McCain by 9 points in Georgia (33 percent to 24); 19 in Florida (46 percent to 27) and Washington state (42 percent to 23); 22 in New Jersey (47 percent to 25); and 23 points in Pennsylvania (47 percent to 24). Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts scored, at best, a distant third in these states.
A Clemson University poll of South Carolina Republicans and GOP-leaners revealed Mr. Giuliani's enormous 68 percent net-favorable rating (78 percent favorable minus 10 percent unfavorable). Mr. McCain's equivalent figure was 42 percent (65 favorable, less 23 percent unfavorable). These figures don't surprise Rasmussen.
"Giuliani has the highest net-favorable ratings of any candidate on whom we've been polling," he says. "Giuliani's higher than McCain and higher than Hillary Clinton. He's even higher than Bill Clinton."
Still, Mr. Giuliani had limited Election Day impact. Among Senate candidates he assisted, 32 percent won, the New York Post reports, as did 38 percent of his House endorsees. While these are not huge numbers, few Republicans enjoyed huge numbers Nov. 7.
Nevetheless, conservatives should appreciate Mr. Giuliani's tireless campaigning. At rallies, press conferences and individual and party fund-raisers, he stumped with Republicans in 25 states this year and reportedly donated $1.2 million to 55 candidates. Except for Nov. 1, Mr. Giuliani was on the hustings daily from Oct. 30 through Nov. 7 and did 30 events for state-legislative, gubernatorial and congressional nominees.
Alas, most incumbents and challengers Mr. Giuliani supported drowned in the Democratic tsunami. But other Republicans he championed swam to safety, such as South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford and Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl.
SayNoToRudy.Org's online retreat also impresses. As the Ohio-based Web site's self-described social-conservative organizers stated Nov. 5:
"We sought to do everything legally possible to prevent [Mr. Giuliani] from becoming the Republican presidential nominee. ... Unexpectedly, as we began to see more and more of who Mr. Giuliani really is... we found that Mr. Giuliani is truly a committed Republican and an accomplished conservative on many issues. ... Therefore, the creators of this organization, with much humility and apology, beyond all probability, hereby announce that we are willing to endorse Mr. Giuliani for the Presidency in 2008."
Despite widespread misinformation about how "liberal" Mr. Giuliani is, this group's 180-degree reversal shows what can happen when conservatives scrutinize Mr. Giuliani's entire performance. Mr. Giuliani chopped overall crime 57 percent, slashed homicide 65 percent, graduated 649,895 New Yorkers ( 58.4 percent of relief recipients) from welfare to work, curbed or abolished 23 taxes, sliced the tax burden by $8 billion or 18.9 percent of personal income, halted racial and gender quotas in contracting, delivered 25,637 children from foster care to adoption, privatized some 23,000 apartments from bureaucratic control to individual and family ownership, and financed charter schools while fighting for vouchers. Some liberal.
Yes, America's Mayor must comfort Republican primary voters on abortion, homosexual rights and guns. He might do this by advocating parental consent for minors who have abortions, and opposing partial-birth abortion and subsidized embryonic stem-cell research. (Can't drug companies fund this?) He could outline his longtime opposition to same-sex "marriage" and promise to nominate constitutionalist judges who respect the Second Amendment. If Rudy Giuliani did this, his Reaganesque approach to nearly every other issue -- plus his tough leadership, counterterrorism credentials and communications prowess -- could make him irresistible in 2008.
Deroy Murdock is a columnist with Scripps Howard News Service and a media fellow with Stanford University's Hoover Institution.