Mr. Giuliani has succeeded because social conservatives—like most other Republicans—were predisposed from the beginning of this campaign to like him, based largely on his 9/11 reputation. Recognizing this, Mr. Giuliani approached them as a friend, refusing to throw his social heresy in their faces and presenting his abortion view almost apologetically. He has given them the emotional motivation to ignore their differences with him on actual social issues.
For this same reason, a third-party social conservative—who would almost certainly have no money, receive scant media coverage and fail to qualify for some state ballots—wouldn’t attract much more support than any of the other fringe candidates who pop up on the fall ballot every four years.
So why are these self-styled conservative leaders now pushing the idea? Because they have no other tricks left. More than anything, Mr. Giuliani threatens their exalted status within the political world, where Republican candidates are written off by insiders if they don’t cater to the wish lists and litmus tests of groups like the Family Research Council. It’s that reputation that gave them an open line to the White House for the past seven years, and it’s not something they’ll part with easily.
Their game is to scare the G.O.P. establishment out of nominating him with a third-party threat. Republicans shouldn’t be afraid to call their bluff.
Follow Steve Kornacki via RSS.