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Giuliani's Convictions Could Win Over Republicans

By Mark Davis

Twenty-eight months to go, and I can't wait.

We have much to cover before this year's elections, but I can't shake my political-junkie fixation on 2008.

It doesn't get more wide open. For the first time in 80 years, neither the sitting president nor vice president will make a peep about running. While the 1952 Eisenhower-Stevenson race was the last featuring neither the incumbent president nor his second in command, President Harry Truman did run unsuccessfully in the New Hampshire primary that year, and his veep, Alben Barkley, proceeded even further before falling short.

Throw in the developing cast of characters for the race to succeed President Bush, and it's no wonder there's early buzz. Who doesn't have some sliver of opinion about the possibility of Hillary Rodham Clinton for the Democrats or Condoleezza Rice for the Republicans?

Who might challenge Hillary? A well-known but flawed John Kerry or Al Gore, or a more palatable but unknown Mark Warner or Evan Bayh?

Since Condi insists she isn't interested - and for the moment I believe her - speculation ranges from base-pleasing Republicans like Sens. Bill Frist, Sam Brownback and my current favorite, George Allen, to the intriguing prospects of envelope-pushers like John McCain and Rudy Giuliani.

And these two intriguing figures constitute my point of the day. There are two things I have stopped saying: first, Mr. McCain can't win, and second, Rudy won't run.

I still don't believe Mr. McCain will be the '08 nominee, but his loyal support for the war has healed some distaste that the GOP base has had for him since he challenged Mr. Bush six years ago. His disconnect with many Republicans on overhauling campaign finance is still an anvil around his prospects, but I can no longer write him off.

As for Mr. Giuliani, I used to say that he won't run and couldn't win if he did. The gay-friendly, abortion-rights-supporting ex-New York mayor whose legacy includes an embrace of gun control? It would seem highly unlikely.

Unless you were in a room with me at the Hotel Crescent Court last month as the Dallas County Republican Party welcomed Mr. Giuliani to a fundraiser also heralding local congressional candidates.

I served as master of ceremonies, and there was a thoroughly polite welcome for the GOP primary survivors who will try to unseat Reps. Eddie Bernice Johnson and Chet Edwards.

But it was Mr. Giuliani who put a room of Reagan-loving red-staters into a positive swoon.

He did it with steadfast support for the Bush war doctrine, coupled with a passion for tight borders that even the still-admired incumbent cannot muster. He did it with strong fiscal conservatism, another Bush weakness. And he did it with a passionate pitch for school choice, an issue Republicans have neglected - mysteriously, since scads of Republicans and Democrats want it.

His content was great. His style was even better. His sharp wit and off-the-cuff comfort are miles beyond the average glazed, scripted politician. He sports a good-natured partisan streak that puts him a head above Mr. McCain, who seems to gag on any sentence suggesting that a Democrat might be wrong.

This is not my prediction that Mr. Giuliani's hand will rest on a Bible at the swearing-in on Jan. 20, 2009. But the Bible-embracing core of the GOP shows a willingness to consider him as he includes evangelical groups in his curious tour of various Republican constituencies.

He will not launch a national gun grab, leaving gun statutes to the cities. He will not push for nationwide gay marriage, happy to leave those decisions to the states, where the Constitution says they belong. He will not pound the bully pulpit for affirmative action, leaving that to the courts.

And speaking of the courts, he speaks glowingly of Mr. Bush's Supreme Court selections, Samuel Alito and John Roberts, suggesting he does not necessarily dream of packing the court with sure-fire abortion-rights opponents.

Throw in the tasty imagery of the Mayor of America wiping the debate stage floor with Mrs. Clinton or virtually anyone else, and it's the kind of thing to make a Republican heart quicken.

I don't know yet whether I can be a Rudy voter, but I'd enjoy watching him try to make me one.

Mark Davis is a columnist for the Dallas Morning News. The Mark Davis Show is heard weekdays nationwide on the ABC Radio Network. His e-mail address is mdavis@wbap.com.

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