Why Giuliani Failed
January 30, 2008
One of my favorite National Review contributors weighs in.
The collapse of Rudy Giuliani’s presidential bid is surely one of the most striking developments of the 2008 campaign. Strategic mistake? I don’t think so. Rudy lost because he dissed social conservatives. In fact, the reason Giuliani missed those early primaries is because he dissed social conservatives. Giuliani’s attempt to take apart and reconstitute Ronald Reagan’s winning political coalition was his original sin…
With Huckabee’s triumph weakening Giuliani further in New Hampshire, Rudy decided on strategic retreat to Florida as his best option. Perhaps in retrospect Giuliani could and should have made a bolder stand in New Hampshire. But Rudy’s early decisions on how to handle social conservatives underpin his logic of retreat. South Carolina was another socially conservative state where Rudy was profoundly handicapped. Had Giuliani coopted at least a significant group of social conservatives back when he was seen as the party’s savior, Huckabee would not have been able to take so many of South Carolina’s evangelicals, and McCain would have had to fight a viable Rudy for South Carolina’s hawks.
One of the keys to understanding why social conservatives are so important is to realize that they are the broadest demographic within the GOP’s prime constituency. For the average church-going, tax-paying citizen in the South (just for an easily imaginable example), a candidate who is pro-life or pro-marriage is who they will favor, not necessarily one who is best on taxes or education. To throw away social conservatives and win is something that a Republican will probably not see for many, many years, if ever.