Marc Ambinder, who once wrote for the Hotline and who now pens a well-sourced, insider-ish blog about the 2008 campaign, has a fundraising appeal from the Giuliani campaign that will be distributed later today.
The pitch: The Democrats will ignore terrorists, take away your health insurance (assuming you have it, I guess), and give illegal immigrants free reign over our country – UNLESS Republicans nominate Rudy, “the only candidate who can beat the Democrats in November.”
Never mind the letter’s laughable hysteria (not to mention Rudy’s own vulnerabilities on immigration, as detailed by Jason Horowitz) – that’s par for the course for these solicitations.
What is interesting, though, is how much the Giuliani campaign is staking on the electability factor. The letter, written by Giuliani’s campaign manager, Michael DuHaime, singles out Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Florida and California as states in which the former mayor is uniquely positioned to compete in the fall. There are others he could have mentioned as well – like New Jersey and Connecticut.
DuHaime’s point is solid – there is no question that Giuliani’s 9/11 star power, and relatively moderate reputation, would potentially position him to overcome the electorate’s grave reservations about handing the White House to a Republican for a third term. And at the very least, he could force the Democrats to spend time and money in all of those states, giving the GOP more of a chance in battleground states.
But when has electability ever mattered in a G.O.P. presidential primary?
John McCain was running 20 points better than George W. Bush against Al Gore in March 2000 – but Republicans overwhelmingly anointed Bush anyway, which very nearly cost them the election. And four years before that, they tapped Bob Dole, ignoring the sunnier and more telegenic Lamar Alexander’s pleas that his campaign was as easy as “ABC – Alexander Beats Clinton.” Even in 1980, there were dire – although, as it turned out, wrong – warnings that nominating Ronald Reagan would be electoral suicide. Not that it mattered to anyone.
Maybe 2008 will be different, especially if Republicans wise up to how poisoned the political atmosphere now is for their party. After all, Democrats actually thought pragmatically (if incorrectly) when they nominated John Kerry in 2004 – will the threat of Hillary provoke a similarly sober response among Republicans?