Robert Novak might not be able to distinguish Thomas Fleming from Thomas Fleming (as the howler in his latest book shows), and he might benefit from a remedial course in journalistic ethics (as the Valerie Plame outing, among other incidents, indicates), but he’s generally pretty savvy when it comes to electoral politics. So I’m discussing his latest column today not simply because he agrees with me, but because there might be something to it.
Commenting on the latest Gallup presidential-preference poll, Novak notes that a plurality of “Republicans who attend church weekly” prefer . . . drum roll, please . . . Rudy Giuliani for president. And among all voters (regardless of party preference), “Giuliani led with a plus-38 favorable rating”—among “churchgoing Catholics”! Novak rightly points out that “His elevated status cannot be written off as merely superior name identification” nor “on the veils of ignorance that in time . . . will be lifted from the eyes of voters.”
In this poll, voters didn’t have to choose between “the lesser of two evils”; they could make their choice based on the current field of candidates, without regard to any possible Democratic nominee. Yet a plurality of church-going Republicans want Rudy. And Catholics, who are more likely than non-Catholic Christians to know that Rudy isn’t exactly a faithful Catholic, still give him the highest favorable rating of any of the candidates.
Yes, it’s early. Yes, he doesn’t have the nomination—yet. But the argument that social conservatives won’t bite the bullet and vote for Giuliani—or, worse yet, vote for him willingly—depends on two assumptions: first, that, as Novak puts it, “voters are just too stupid to know the truth about him”; and second, that, during a race with a Democratic candidate who holds the same social positions as Giuliani, those of us who know better are somehow going to be able to grab the national microphone and educate those who don’t. But why should we believe that the national media is going to be interested in giving us such a platform?
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