Tonight the 2012 Republican race for the White House unofficially begins with the first Presidential Debate from South Carolina being broadcast on Fox News. Perhaps most notable about this year’s race is how few candidates have actually entered the race and those who have not such as presumptive front runner Mitt Romney. The state of the Republican race may be best characterized by the rise of Donald Trump in the polls, a man Sen. Rand Paul has asked to provide proof he really is a Republican (a very good question).
I was recently asked by a family friend what I thought about the Tea Party, a question that is far harder to answer than at first it may appear. My first response was what Tea Party? Part of the strength of the movement which in no small way propelled the Republican Party back to power in 2010 was it is not a single organized party and derives its strength as a movement from its grass roots strength. This is demonstrated by polls in 2010 which showed a majority of Americans identified with the Tea Party’s principals while a clear majority oppose the tea party itself. The American electorate is tired of expansive government, concerned about the debt crisis and still worried about our national security. This is a Republican electorate. Some of the so called tea party Leaders have seized this movement and have tried to co-opt it for their own personal and largely social conservative purposes. But the contrast between support for the Tea Party core beliefs and the Tea Party itself remains stark.
Into this divide stands ready to enter the 107th Mayor of the City of New York Rudy Giuliani, the man who in 2008 rivaled former Texas Governor John Connelly for the most money spent in order to win a single delegate to the Republican National Convention. However 2012 is a very different year and Giuliani may well be a more rounded and well suited candidate. I have always felt that in 2008 Giuliani was poorly served by his advisors in two respects. First on the purely tactical front waiting for the Florida Primary to begin his formal fight allowed other candidates, notably John McCain to gain such momentum that Giuliani was largely run over by McCain and second place pursuer Mitt Romney. However the second flaw was much more fundamental, the prominence of 9/11 in the campaign of the man dubbed “America’s Mayor” after his performance on that day which can only be described as Churchillian. So why a mistake? His heroic performance that day was not enough and allowed him to be portrayed by his rivals as one dimensional. Besides, no American needed reminding of Rudy’s performance that day, it was seared into the national consciousness.
So why is the door open for a Giuliani candidacy this year? Because to those of us who lived in the New York area during much of his term of Mayor in the 1990’s, his real strength was his ability to make the unmanageable manageable. In 1993 New York was a mess, a fiscal basket case where the streets were under control of the criminals more than the NYPD. Rather than be overwhelmed by the magnitude of the challenge, Giuliani methodically took control one issue at a time. Budgets were cut because for the first time the reality of limited financial recourses were faced. Taxes were cut drawing a renaissance of investment beyond the traditional financal Services sector. Indeed New York became a center for the emerging internet sector leveraging the vast creative base within the city. Law & Order was brought to the city one block at a time and in his two terms as mayor saw the city transformed into the safest large city in the world. Yes, Rudy Giuliani is America’s Mayor for 9/11, but he also led one of the most effective example of fiscal conservatism in the last century.
But isn’t Rudy a social Liberal? That was and will be the stick used by Giuliani’s critics to beat back a 2012 candidacy? Maybe that underlies the ignorance of many of those critics as to the true nature of conservatism. Conservatism is based upon the belief that most issues are best dealt with not by the national government but rather by the level of government closest to those governed, the states and communities themselves. As a Mayor, Giuliani lead the government in New York which most represented the people of New York. A Republican mayor in perhaps the most liberal City in America. And during his term as mayor he likely prevented more abortions than any of the national politicians in congress because as mayor he could address the root cause of the problems. Are results more important than words? I happen to think they are.
This brings us to the key to a Giuliani candidacy in 2012: A Leader When Leadership is required. If I was to advise Rudy on a 2012 run, I would encourage him to never mention 9/11 because it is unneeded, he will always be the leader most associated with that day. Rather I would have him focus on two words, Toughness and Competence. The American people are ahead of the leaders in Washington in recognizing the challenges which face our country. Government spending and the debt have to be brought under control and Giuliani has the best record of any of the current crop of leaders, and far more than the current occupant of the White House. And not a single person doubts Rudy would go to hell and back to defend America. Tough and competent leadership is what the American people crave and so far seem not to have found. While they have flirted with Donald Trump, it may well be in another New Yorker that they find the real deal.