Right now, Rudy Giuliani is riding high in the saddle. He leads the Republican field in national polling, he just raised the most cash of any Republican in the third quarter (he was just in Clayton, MO for a $1,000/plate shindig), and he does best among his rivals in head-to-head matchups with Democratic candidates. But all is not well in Rudyland.
For starters, Christian conservatives on a national level are threatening to split with the Republican Party if the GOP nominates a candidate insufficiently committed to “family values.” Focus on the Family head James Dobson explicitly stated this in a New York Times op-ed piece:
Reports have surfaced in the press about a meeting that occurred last Saturday in Salt Lake City involving more than 50 pro-family leaders. The purpose of the gathering was to discuss our response if both the Democratic and Republican Parties nominate standard-bearers who are supportive of abortion[…]After two hours of deliberation, we voted on a resolution that can be summarized as follows: If neither of the two major political parties nominates an individual who pledges himself or herself to the sanctity of human life, we will join others in voting for a minor-party candidate. Those agreeing with the proposition were invited to stand. The result was almost unanimous. [emphasis mine]
Dobson also rejected electability arguments for candidates like Rudy:
The other approach, which I find problematic, is to choose a candidate according to the likelihood of electoral success or failure. Polls don’t measure right and wrong; voting according to the possibility of winning or losing can lead directly to the compromise of one’s principles.
On a local level, St. Louis’ Archbishop Raymond Burke is reprising his role from 2004. Instead of pointing his finger at the Democrats, this time he’s aiming at Giuliani. Asked whether he would deny Communion to Giuliani if the former NY mayor attended Mass in the Basilica, Burke replied, “If the question is about a Catholic who is publicly espousing positions contrary to the moral law and I know that person knows it, yes I would.” (DHinMI has a fascinating look at this topic on Daily Kos.)
So what does all of this mean for Missouri?
A recent SurveyUSA poll shows Rudy Giuliani as the Republican candidate most likely to take Missouri in the general election. Even then, he only edges Clinton (48-45), while Obama bests him narrowly (46-44) and Edwards wins handily (48-42). Among anti-abortion voters (half of all voters in Missouri), Giuliani is also the strongest Republican in all head-to-heads, except when facing Obama – Fred Thompson has a slightly better margin there. But this is from polling done right now, before a bruising GOP primary makes pro-lifers well aware that Giuliani is not a candidate likely to toe the anti-abortion line. Remember that Bush beat Kerry in Missouri 52-47 while carrying the anti-abortion vote 73-26. GOPers need them to have a prayer (no pun intended) at carrying the state.
So what happens when Dobson & Co. announce that they’re sitting this one out? What happens when papers around the state carry headlines about Archbishop Burke’s condemnation of Giuliani’s position on abortion? Conversely, you can imagine that Giuliani might be able to find some sort of compromise with social conservatives, but he won’t be able to practice Bush’s dog whistle politics to do so – he’ll need grander gestures that could peel off moderates to the Democratic side. As a bonus, Giuliani’s problems with the base would hurt Republican candidates down the ticket in Missouri, especially if he actually campaigns with them.
And this is the strongest Republican candidate in Missouri. So fear not, fellow Missourians, we have a good chance at winning back the state in the Electoral College, the governorship, the lieutenant governorship, and at gaining a majority in the congressional delegation. We even have an outside shot at winning a majority in the state legislature!