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Can Rudy Win in 2012?

3:30 PM, Jan 27, 2011 • By DANIEL HALPER
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Matt Continetti writes about Rudy Giuliani's chances in the 2012 presidential election, in this week's issue of THE WEEKLY STANDARD newsletter:

I can't be the only Republican in the country with a Rudy Giuliani hangover. I was an enthusiastic follower of the former New York City mayor's 2008 campaign, right up until the moment it was revealed that Giuliani actually had no clue how to win a presidential nomination. While Huckabee was winning in Iowa and McCain was picking up New Hampshire and South Carolina, Giuliani stuck to the delusion that Florida was somehow a firewall. His collapse was a disappointing coda to a remarkable career. It also cured me of some illusions. In retrospect, it was silly for me to believe that a metropolitan, pro-choice mayor could win the nomination of a party dominated by social conservatives living in suburban, exurban, and rural America.

Now the 2012 campaign is about to begin and, remarkably, Giuliani is back. For some time, he's been dropping hints that he might run again. On January 24 he gave an interview to CNN's Piers Morgan where he said that he's realized "you've got to win primaries in order to be nominated." If only he'd thought of that four years ago!

Giuliani says that he'd be tempted to run if Sarah Palin enters the race. In this scenario, all the energy would be on the conservative side, and Giuliani could run a contrast campaign as the "adult" moderate capable of appealing to the center. According to conventional wisdom, however, Giuliani would be even more out of touch in 2012 than in 2008. The conservative wing of the Republican party is where all the action is. The Tea Party is going to be a crucial factor in the nomination fight. Social issues are just as important as they were in 2008.

But then you realize that John McCain benefited from intra-conservative fighting four years ago. Not every Republican primary voter is a conservative. With Romney and Huckabee splitting conservatives, McCain was able to hold the middle and win the nomination. Perhaps Giuliani envisions a similar scenario in 2012: Everybody else tears each other apart fighting for the conservative vote while the mayor holds enough conservatives and plenty of moderates and independents to win primaries. Far-fetched, I know. But not inconceivable.

What is not conceivable, however, is that a pro-choicer could win the nomination of a pro-life party. By 2008, McCain had dispelled any confusion over his pro-life stance. Giuliani remains pro-choice and has never backed down from his position. Tea Party-enthusiasm to the contrary notwithstanding, social issues drive the GOP base like no others. (Remember, too, that most Tea Partiers are social conservatives.) I haven't the slightest idea whom the 2012 GOP nominee will be. But I do know he'll be pro-life.

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