Updated Addendum to the “UPDATE”
This is an Addendum to a series by former Governor Mario Cuomo.
Republicans are demonstrating concerns about the lack of a strong candidate who is ideologically compatible with the major constituencies among Republican voters. Signs indicate they will eventually conclude that what they’ll have to settle for is a candidate capable of defeating the Democratic candidate with whatever ideological deficiencies he appears to have.
Right now that points to Rudy Giuliani who is the leading Republican candidate in most of the polls. Giuliani’s campaign appears to have four major thrusts apart from his 4 day roll around 9/11. First, while timidly maintaining he has not abandoned his liberal positions on abortion, same-sex marriage and guns, he seeks to compensate for them by suggesting he will name distinctly conservative candidates as justices to the Supreme Court. The apparent purpose is to suggest to Republican conservatives that he will use the Court to get the political results he would not otherwise be able to produce as President, including getting rid of Roe v. Wade, stopping same-sex marriage and interpreting the Second Amendment in a way that prohibits the regulation of guns. A clever approach, but a transparent one. The Democrats should point out “That’s the way Dick Nixon ran for office in the primaries of 1959 when the target was the Warren Court.”
The second approach is support for a “Ronald Reagan economy” that cuts taxes and strengthens the American military. The Democrats will be able to point out that President Reagan was a Supply Side Guru who argued that if you take care of the rich people they will make America a “Shining City on a Hill.” In fact, his eight-year term proved that Supply-Side would create only a tiny “Shining Village on a Hill,” which was a gated community restricted to the wealthiest Americans.
Reagan so badly managed the budget that he created the largest deficit and debt in American history up to that time. As a result he was forced to raise taxes seven times after he had cut them too severely and overspent his revenues. Giuliani’s position would also give the Democrats a chance to make the point that Reagan’s tax increases on top corporate and individual earners, together with the first George Bush’s tax increases in the next term, and then finally the Clinton tax increases in 1993 were followed by eight of the most prosperous years in American economic history. In view of the fact that Bush II’s failed effort at Supply-Side has resulted in a new record deficit and debt - just as Reagan’s had - Democrats can argue that we should now use the antidote that Reagan, Bush I and Clinton used ─ tax increases on the wealthiest Americans.
Giuliani’s third thrust is that his success as Mayor of the City of New York proves he can manage the largest economy and most complicated and powerful military in the world competently. Given the fact that Giuliani was recorded in the low forties in opinion polls before 9/11, his claim to excellent performance as Mayor overall will be contentious at best.
The fourth thrust is particularly interesting to New Yorkers: “Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic candidate and I am the best bet to beat her!” His strong attack on Senator Clinton in recent days─in person and through an expensive television ad─distinguishes him from all his Republican opponents, as well as from all of the Senator’s Democratic opponents.
Over the last few months the political scene has been enlarged to include two new personalities, former Senator Fred Thompson of “Law and Order” fame and Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City. Thompson has become a candidate and had risen to second-or-third in the Republican polls even before officially announcing his candidacy. It remains to be seen how effective a campaigner he will be.
Mayor Bloomberg will be a factor in the race whether he runs or not. He has shed his Republican Party affiliation and become an Independent, what he calls “a non-partisan seeker of truth and progress.” That’s consistent with a potential candidacy, although the Mayor has increasingly sent out negative signals about running. In all likelihood he is waiting to see who the Democratic and Republican primary winners will be and whether there is any room to run between them. If the Mayor believes voters regard neither of the Party candidates selected in the primaries to be compelling, he will be tempted to run against the field. If he does, he will be a clear underdog if only because of the paucity of “outsider” victories historically. On the other hand a number of factors will combine to give his race some plausibility. His great wealth makes it unnecessary for him to spend time raising money and the unusually long general election campaign (because the primaries will probably be over by the end of February) will give him time to catch up. It also seems clear that neither of the major Parties appear particularly powerful at the moment and still may not in early 2008. “The Week Magazine" July 27, 2007 reported that 58% in a poll of American adults say a third party is needed. Only 33% say Democrats and Republicans are adequate If that remains true after the February primaries, it will create a real opening for a true Independent. Bloomberg’s excellent reputation as a successful Mayor is another strong boost to his credibility whether he is a candidate or just a significant voice. (He polls at 72% positive, Giuliani was at 40% on the day before 9/11). The cumulative effect of these factors certainly make the Mayor worth watching and if he decides not to run his credentials will make him a significant voice in the campaign. Incidentally, he will be speaking at Cooper Union on September 25, 2007, in a lecture on current issues, moderated by Tom Brokaw. Admission is free on a first-come-first-served basis.
Another less noticed but equally significant appearance was that of General Wesley Clark who has announced his “full and strong” support for Hillary Clinton. He adds a powerful military and diplomatic expertise that would be a significant help in the general election and in the Presidency, should she win. “Secretary of State Clark”? “Vice President Clark” makes sense to me.
The Drum Major Institute is a 501c3 organization. The Governor's opinions are his own.