THE WEEK DID NOT start well for former New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani, the frontrunner for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination. Media attention focused heavily on former Tennessee senator Fred Thompson's official entry into the nomination fight and Arizona senator John McCain's resurgent campaign. Meanwhile, as Thompson and McCain dominated headlines, new polls showed both candidates gaining ground. Hizzoner was missing from the news. Conventional wisdom--that Giuliani has absolutely no chance of winning the GOP nod--once again reared its ugly head, this time in an opinion piece written by Democratic pollster Douglas Schoen in Thursday's New York Daily News. "Mark my words," Schoen wrote. "Giuliani will not be the GOP's nominee."
Schoen may want to wait before placing any bets on that assumption. On the same day that Schoen's article was published, Giuliani thrust himself back into the spotlight. At a press availability in Atlanta, the former mayor lambasted critics of Gen. David Petraeus and President Bush's counterinsurgency strategy in Iraq. He attacked the antiwar MoveOn.org for an advertisement in Monday's New York Times that asked, "General Petraeus or General Betray Us?" He noted that the Times had sold the ad space to MoveOn at a discount rate. And he included Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton among those who question Petraeus's credibility.
More, Giuliani upped the ante. He called upon the Times to sell him ad space at MoveOn's discount rate, which would allow him to run an ad of similar size praising Petraeus's efforts in Iraq. "We are going to ask the New York Times to allow us tomorrow to print an ad that will obviously take the opposite view," Giuliani said. "We believe, unlike Hillary Clinton, that General Petraeus is telling the truth."
This bold move is classic Giuliani. Hizzoner practices the politics of confrontation, in which he chooses a position and relentlessly pursues those who hold the opposite view. In this case, Giuliani's position is support for the war in Iraq and General Petraeus's counterinsurgency strategy. And his opponents make up a trifecta of liberal bogeymen: MoveOn, the Times, and Clinton. By raising the stakes, Giuliani emphasizes to conservatives that he is on their side--something many are not quite ready to believe.
It's unclear whether the New York Times will sell the space to Giuliani as requested. But one thing is clear. Giuliani has reminded his opponents, Democratic and Republican alike, that he remains a wily and combative contender for president.
Matthew Continetti is associate editor of THE WEEKLY STANDARD.