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Gambling man

Campaign 2008 | Rudy Giuliani's late-to-the-table strategy will be tested Jan. 29

Issue: "Signs and wonders," Jan. 26, 2008

Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani produced a colorful reminder of America's ever-morphing political environment when he uttered these words in a television commercial airing in Florida this month: "Soy Rudy Giuliani y apruebo este mensaje."

Translation: "I'm Rudy Giuliani, and I approved this message."

The Spanish-language campaign ad targeted a large Hispanic population that represents one of the fastest-growing voter blocs in the country. The ad also targeted a state that may represent Giuliani's last stand for the Republican nomination.

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Losing the Florida primary on Jan. 29 would deliver a weighty blow to the high-risk strategy that Giuliani is gambling on: Abandon early primary contests, and clinch a majority of the hundreds of delegates up for grabs in 21 contests during "Super Tuesday" on Feb. 5.

For Giuliani, winning Florida is the last opportunity to build momentum heading into Super Tuesday. What happens in the Sunshine State later this month will shed light on an ominous question for the former mayor's campaign: Does America want Giuliani?

In the days and weeks after the 9/11 attacks, America overwhelmingly wanted Giuliani's leadership in a devastated New York City. Giuliani welcomed the mantle as "America's mayor," and the candidate reminds voters of his work overseeing colossal security and recovery efforts at the World Trade Center.

Giuliani's persuasiveness on the issue of national security propelled him to a top spot in national polls early on: For the first half of last year, America's mayor was a front-runner to become America's chief executive.

But as the year wore on, voter concerns broadened, with the economy eclipsing the war in Iraq as the top issue for voters. Earlier this month, Giuliani responded by introducing an economic proposal to extend tax cuts and lower the corporate tax rate. The conservative economic group Club for Growth praised the candidate's plan, but other Republican candidates touted similar proposals, and it appeared unlikely that Giuliani could sharply distinguish himself on economic issues.

Meanwhile, a larger problem continues to cling to Giuliani: his liberal positions on social issues in a party with a deeply conservative base.

Giuliani opposes gay marriage but only recently distanced himself from his earlier support of civil unions. Late last summer, Maria Comella, the campaign's deputy communications director, told the Boston Globe that Giuliani now thinks civil unions like the ones in New Hampshire go too far, but he supports domestic partnership laws like the ones in New York City. (Giuliani helped draft the New York City laws that allow unmarried homosexual and heterosexual couples to qualify for municipal benefits, and said: "I believe New York is setting the pace for the rest of the country.")

The larger problem for Giuliani lies in his pro-abortion stance. The candidate says he personally disapproves of abortion but thinks it should remain legal. He has tried to assuage pro-life social conservatives and evangelicals with assurances that he would appoint strict constructionist judges who would likely favor pro-life positions.

For many evangelicals, that argument hasn't worked. Prominent Christian leaders say Giuliani's pro-abortion position makes it impossible for them to cast a vote for the former mayor. Only one high-profile evangelical has embraced the candidate: Pat Robertson of the Christian Broadcasting Network.

The pro-life Robertson told WORLD that Giuliani's promise to appoint conservative judges and his support for parental notification laws and the Hyde Amendment (which prohibits federal funding of abortions for poor women) ease his concerns about Giuliani's stand on abortion. Robertson said he supports Giuliani because he believes national security is the most urgent concern in the coming election.

Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, told WORLD he also believes national security is a predominant concern, but added, "Moral security is at least as important as national security." Land calls abortion "the most profound moral issue of our time" and says he can't in good conscience vote for a pro-abortion candidate. (Giuliani's campaign did not respond to WORLD's requests for an interview.)

Land and other evangelicals have another concern about Giuliani as well: his character. Giuliani has been married three times, and he openly carried on an affair with his current wife while still married to the second. As Giuliani's second marriage disintegrated, the mayor showed up at public functions with his mistress.

Giuliani expressed sadness over the failure of his second marriage but hasn't expressed contrition for his adultery. Land says that pattern has implications for the candidate's pursuit of the presidency. "If a person does not have integrity in their personal life then you can't expect them to have integrity in their public life," he says. "It's a seamless garment."

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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