Friday, March 02, 2007

Many political observers are amazed by Rudy Guliani's apparent strength among "social conservatives" in the Republican party. The CW is that support will diminish or disappear when those conservative voters know more about his record.

But I suspect Rudy's conservative Republican supporters DO understand his record, and may just be making the same mistake many Democrats made in 2004 -- choosing their candidate, to a partial but important degree, on criteria they think OTHERS will apply to the candidates. (In other words, electability.)

Just as Democrats vastly over-estimated how much John Kerry's military credentials would matter to a broader, supposedly more "centrist," electorate, and failed to realize how little it would do to moderate his real deficit -- an elitist liberal image -- these conservatives are over-estimating how much Rudy's blue-state background will matter to more "moderate" voters.

In 2004, Democrats, instead of blasting absurd notions of their "weakness" in military matters, gave credence to conservative characterizations of them with clumsy over-compensation. In doing so they overlooked the fact that no matter how "security" conscious or bellicose the broader, more "moderate" electorate appeared to be, that electorate was increasingly made up of people who never served in the military, who don't see avoidance of service as shameful or disqualifying, and whose lack of any real military experience turned out to be very exploitable.

My guess is that conservatives' notions of what more "moderate" voters are looking for is just as off base and stereotyped -- but from another direction.

I suspect that the very large personal character faults and flaws conservatives are willing to overlook in Rudy in order to win are much less likely to be overlooked and tolerated by voters who do not have strongly partisan reasons for doing so.



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