Wednesday, November 14, 2007


Adam Nagourney, looking at the results of a new New York Times/CBS poll, writes:

Republican voters in [Iowa and New Hampshire] say that Mitt Romney, a former governor of Massachusetts, shares their values and views on immigration, a red-hot issue for Republicans in Iowa especially. But they are divided over whether Mr. Romney or Rudolph W. Giuliani, who Republican voters say does not share their values, would be the party's strongest general-election candidate -- and electability looms as a crucial factor for Republican voters in those states.

Well, they could have solved the electability problem long ago by rallying around McCain. The media worshipped him for a long time, and some journalists and pundits still worship him. Even now, after his embrace of Bush, his pandering to the religious right, and his excessive cheerleading on the war, he does somewhat better against Hillary Clinton in polls than either Giuliani or Romney.

Giuliani's success in the past year suggests that abortion is ceasing to be the GOP's top litmus test. Recently, in the L.A. Times, Rosa Brooks argued that abortion's replacement as a litmus test is torture: "Will you or will you not protect U.S. officials who order the torture of prisoners?" McCain's struggle this year suggests that's true (although his anti-torture deeds don't match his words). Or maybe a seal-the-borders approach to immigration is the top litmus test. Or maybe it's opposition to campaign finance reform, or perhaps never having insulted the religious right. (Actually going to church doesn't seem to matter, as the still-popular Giuliani and the briefly popular Thompson have made clear.)

Yeah, McCain fails a lot of GOP tests. But so does Giuliani, and so did Romney until what seems like ten minutes ago. The Giuliani-McCain comparison makes clear that abortion and gay rights score fewer points than campaign finance reform, immigration, torture, and being nice to preachers. Not what we've always assumed, right?

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