RUDY AND THE RIGHT….Thomas Edsall argues that Rudy Giuliani can win the Republican nomination because conservatives these days care more about terror than they do about abortion and gay rights. Matt Yglesias isn’t so sure:

This is interesting stuff, but I’m not sure it indicates that abortion and gay marriage have fallen in salience nearly enough. After all, I wouldn’t say abortion is my top priority in the coming election, but if Barack Obama were to announce tomorrow that he’s pro-life and wants to [appoint] justices who’ll overturn Roe v. Wade my level of enthusiasm for his candidacy was drop to zero….At the end of the day, I think you’ll find that most Republicans really want their party to be against abortion and if Giuliani is still front-running months and months from now somebody (my guess is McCain) will emerge as the pro-life alternative and win.

I sort of agree with this. Furthermore, I think Giuliani will lose because at some point he’ll throw a public hissy fit of some kind and self destruct. Still, there are reasons to think Edsall could be on to something.

First, we have an odd situation this year where social conservatives are uncomfortable with all the leading GOP candidates: Giuliani is too liberal; Romney is an abortion flip-flopper and a Mormon; and until his panderfest started last year, McCain was publicly hostile to evangelical religious leaders. If there were someone the social cons could coalesce around who was a little more credible than Sam Brownback, Giuliani might have more problems. As it is, all he has to do is be a little less unacceptable than his opponents.

Second, Giuliani hasn’t really done the equivalent of what Matt suggests. Take Harry Reid: he’s pro-life, but Democrats like him fine. Why? Because his personal beliefs aside, everyone knows that Reid is mostly on our side legislatively. He’s not going to do any damage to the pro-choice cause.

Giuliani is singing a mirror image of the same tune. Sure, he’s pro-choice, but he’s going to appoint conservative judges. He’s in favor of gun control, but only in urban areas — and he wants to leave it up to the states anyway. And while he might not be the guy to push for a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, he won’t be pushing to open things up on that front either.

All that said, I guess I agree that Giuliani’s social views will eventually doom him if his temper doesn’t do it first. I don’t think it’s a slam dunk, though. As long as he can convince the social cons that he won’t allow liberal moral decay to gain any more of a foothold than it already has — and a few ads about “Piss Christ” might do the trick on this score — that might be enough to win the support of a big chunk of voters who aren’t all that thrilled with any of his competitors either. Stranger things have happened.

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