Michael Barone –who knows his political stuff better than anyone– wonders whether the GOP primary electorate is changing:
And while cultural conservatives clearly had veto power over Republican nominations from 1980 to 2000, it’s not clear to me that that’s the case any more. McCain and Giuliani enjoy great respect among Republican primary voters as strong leaders. Both supported George W. Bush wholeheartedly in 2004 and are in great favor with the Bush White House today. Potential opponents more in line with Bush’s stands on issues, such as Sens. Bill Frist and George Allen, start off much less well known and have not been as visibly tested as McCain was in Vietnam and Giuliani was on Sept. 11.
Conservative radio talk-show host Hugh Hewitt, speaking to Republican women in conservative Temecula, Calif., found that most favored Giuliani, despite his positions on cultural issues. When he asked why, one said: “All that doesn’t matter if we are attacked. Rudy will keep us safe.” Republican blogger Patrick Ruffini’s late-August poll of more than 10,000 readers showed Giuliani far in front of the nearest competitor, Allen.
He’s right about my Temecula audience –which I wrote about months ago, but MB doesn’t forget anything– and he’s right about the Ruffini poll.
BUT, if another Republican presents a national security profile and GWOT credentials at least as strong as Rudy’s, but who is more conservative on other issues of concern to the base like judges, that candidate will surge past Rudy in the primaries.
What I think we can agree is that a pro-choice tilt doesn’t disqualify a GOP candidate in the primaries if he is strong on the GWOT, if his choices for judges can be trusted, and if he has been loyal to the president and the party.