Can Rudy Giuliani win the 2008 Republican presidential nomination?
Washington Post writers Michael Powell and Chris Cillizza explored that question Monday, noting Giuliani's "national poll numbers are a dream, he's a major box office draw on the Republican Party circuit, and he goes by the shorthand title "America's Mayor." All of which has former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani convinced he just might become America's president in 2008."
But Giuliani is out of step with the GOP's conservative base on key social issues - he favors abortion rights, gun control and domestic partnerships for gay couples, for example - leading some to believe he can't win the nomination.
The Washington Post story includes comments from a variety of Republican political consultants and advisers debating whether or not Giuliani's liberalism on social issues is too big an obstacle for him to overcome. Giuliani, interestingly, is described as portraying his position on some social issues as libertarian rather than liberal.
"For us to nominate him, we have to say those issues are not really important to us [and] we care more about winning regardless of the philosophy of our candidate," GOP consultant Curt Anderson said. "I don't believe that a majority of Republican primary voters will make that choice."
But in a measure of the party's divisions, other Republicans, such as California financier Bill Simon and talk show host Dennis Prager, say his social liberalism is of less concern. They are among a group of conservative activists who see in Giuliani a Reagan-like figure, sometimes wrong but possessed of unshakable conservative beliefs.
They also see a Republican Party that must establish a beachhead in Blue State America.
"Republicans do understand it is political suicide to keep this red-state, blue-state thing going any longer," said Barry Wynn, former chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party and a recruit to Giuliani's banner. "We need someone competitive in all 50 states."
Whether Giuliani gets the chance depends on more than just his stand on social issues, as the Post writers make clear:
Tactically, the shape of Giuliani's campaign depends on forces outside his control. If, for example, New Jersey successfully pushes its primary day ahead of South Carolina on the calendar, and if he wins in New Hampshire, Giuliani could gain momentum.
And then there's fundraising and building a campaign team. No one doubts Giuliani, a rock-star on the speaking circuit, can pull in the bucks. He's also got a personal connection to Wall Street, which certainly will help him raise serious cash fast.
But, Giuliani hasn't yet built the kind of campaign team he'll need, the Post writers report:
Republican operatives caution that Giuliani is far behind in the "talent primary" -- the back-stage battle for sought-after campaign staffers. McCain and Gov. Mitt Romney (R-Mass.) have so far dominated this inside but important game.
Can rock-star celebrity, unquestioned leadership skills, and being right for the Right on many key issues help Giuliani overcome his tactical disadvantages and his liberal position on social issues enough to win the nomination?
Perhaps not. But then again, he IS leading McCain in the latest polls.