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Poll positioning

GOP | Moderates and conservatives mix it up on the way to winning votes

Issue: "A few good men," May 6, 2006

When Rudy Giuliani headlines for Ralph Reed at a high-profile fundraiser in Georgia this month, Mr. Reed likely won't tell his Republican supporters the same thing he told Republicans at a Christian Coalition convention in Washington, D.C., in 1996: "You had better not retreat from the pro-life and pro-family stance that makes you a majority party." Repeating such a warning while standing next to Mr. Giuliani, a potential 2008 Republican presidential candidate, could prove awkward: Mr. Giuliani favors legalized abortion and gay marriage.

But with a narrow lead in an embattled race to win a July 18 primary for lieutenant governor in Georgia, Mr. Reed has sought out-of-state help from popular Republicans like Mr. Giuliani, though their positions on some key issues sharply diverge.

Mississippi Republican governor Haley Barbour was the keynote speaker for a Reed campaign event in March. This month Mr. Barbour was slated as the keynote speaker for the Southern Gaming Summit, a huge expo for casino operators and gaming manufacturers. Mr. Reed has called gambling "a cancer" and has waged anti-gambling campaigns in the South, though he admits he took money from a casino-owning Indian tribe to fight gambling while working for lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

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Reed spokesman Jared Thomas said the campaign has embraced Mr. Giuliani because of his leadership after 9/11 and because of his support for the president in 2004. "While he and Ralph do not agree on every issue," said Mr. Thomas, "we are proud to have his support."

Mr. Reed isn't the only conservative making alliances with moderate Republicans ahead of mid-term elections. Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), a staunch conservative and vigorous opponent of both abortion and gay marriage, welcomed Mr. Giuliani at a campaign stop at a Blue Bell, Pa., firehouse in April.

Mr. Santorum is unopposed in his state's GOP primary, but likely faces a tough battle for reelection against Democratic state treasurer Bob Casey Jr., the son of a popular former Pennsylvania governor. Like Mr. Santorum, Mr. Casey opposes abortion as well as embryonic stem-cell research, leaving Mr. Santorum to campaign on issues like foreign policy and national security. It's in those two areas, Mr. Giuliani told supporters, that Mr. Santorum excels, and added that the senator provides "the kind of leadership we need."

Santorum spokeswoman Virginia Davis told WORLD that while they have differences, Mr. Santorum shares common ground with Mr. Giuliani on national security: "Sen. Santorum strongly believes in the importance of protecting the family and in the sanctity of life. . . . However, that doesn't mean that he and Mayor Giuliani cannot work together on issues where they share a strong commitment."

Conservative politicians aren't the only beneficiaries in aligning with moderates to bolster broader support. Mr. Giuliani's connection with conservatives like Mr. Reed and Mr. Santorum is also a likely play to win support from Republicans who disagree with his left-leaning stance on social issues as he explores a bid for the presidency in 2008.

Sen. John McCain, another moderate Republican eyeing a presidential bid, is also reaching across the GOP divide, mending bridges with conservative Jerry Falwell, whom Mr. McCain called "an agent of intolerance" during the 2000 presidential campaign. Mr. McCain will serve as commencement speaker this month at Mr. Falwell's Liberty University.

Jon Stewart, host of Comedy Central's The Daily Show, asked Mr. McCain about his reversal during a guest appearance on the show last month. "Are you freaking out on us?" Mr. Stewart asked. "Are you going into crazy-base world?"

"I'm afraid so," Mr. McCain replied.

Just how far right Mr. McCain might move is unclear. Asked how he will address conservative concerns, he said, "If I decide to run, I will try to devise proper answers to those questions."

Mr. Falwell told CNN that he now believes Mr. McCain is a "strong conservative" but isn't sure he will endorse him for the presidency. One person Mr. Falwell won't endorse: Rudy Giuliani. Mr. Falwell said he respects Mr. Giuliani, but that the two have "irreconcilable differences on life and family."

Jamie Dean
Jamie Dean

Jamie lives and works in North Carolina, where she covers the national political beat and other topics as news editor for WORLD. Follow Jamie on Twitter @deanworldmag.

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