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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

How About Giuliani As Romney's Veep?

The headline above gives my idea away. It is surprising and perhaps controversial, but actually follows Republican Party tradition. Rudy Giuliani would add the no-nonsense gravitas and toughness that Mitt Romney is perceived as missing. Giuliani's steely grace under pressure after 9/11 showed, once and for all, that for whatever his policy and reputed personal warts, Giuliani had a wartime-President type ability to withstand adversity and act when the circumstances would make many a lesser man or woman wilt...or run. While Joseph Biden famously made fun of Giuliani's proclivity to include in every sentence a noun, verb and "nine-eleven," Giuliani's strength in the aftermath of and response to the World Trade Center attack cannot ever be questioned. That grace under pressure, the sheer toughness, is needed by Romney 2012 as the Republican campaign is failing to establish any lead despite a miserable L-shaped recovery and Obama's sub-50% approval rating. Giuliani would add the personal trait of (perceived) decisiveness, and would be an excellent counterweight to the perception of Romney as a flip-flopper who is consistent only in his inconsistency on issues. At the very least, Giuliani would be seen as undoubtedly up to the task of confronting perhaps the gravest economic crisis of our lifetimes. And Giuliani combines toughness with professionalism and class; a combination notably absent from reputed tough guy and flavor of the month Chris Christie. Obama's comments that "You didn't build that" and "Somebody else made that happen" could not be more denigrating and discouraging of, and insulting towards, all achievement and those who, very simply, try hard. The comments go far beyond a criticism of business owners and entrepreneurship, and an almost depraved indifference towards the risks business owners take. Such comments are teeming with envy, resentment and a deep antipathy towards business owners. Romney needs a forceful campaigner -- which he is not -- to rebuke this mentality in the strongest possible way. Giuliani fits this bill as few men can. Of course, there are drawbacks. Giuliani is a moderate on many social issues like abortion and gay rights, and his selection as anything (whether it be vice president, attorney general or another cabinet position) would risk alienating some social conservatives. The risk is that enthusiasm in some quarters would not be as strong, and would be reflected in lower turnout. On the other hand, the antipathy in some quarters towards President Obama is so strong that turnout among the Republican/conservative base may not be an issue. Giuliani would not add geographic balance to the ticket. Giuliani also would not be a demographic counterweight, because he, like Romney, is a 60-something white male from a Northeast dark blue state (New York). However, he will unquestionably be seen as standing for something and having the mental toughness that a younger candidate -- someone like Marco Rubio, for example -- would not be able to match given his relative youthful inexperience. He will not raise the doubts that just about any other vice presidential pick might engender. Romney can pick any of a dozen or two dozen candidates for vice president. Those choices are safe, uncontroversial, boring...and probably will gain him absolutely no votes on November 6th. On the other hand, Romney can pick Giuliani, and send a message to the nation that he knows we are in a major national crisis, can think and act "outside the box," and will make unpredictable, bold choices. There is precedent for this. In 2000, George W. Bush went through a VP screening process shepherded by former Congressman and Defense Secretary Dick Cheney. The result of that process was the selection of Cheney himself. It was an unconventional, risky move that added nothing demographically or electorally. However, among serious conservatives, Cheney was known as a no-nonsense guy and he was the perfect counterbalance to Bush's perceived lack of...well...maturity. Cheney represented both experience and toughness. He "closed the deal" with some voters. Giuliani is just as risky, but he can accomplish the same effect in 2012. Eric Dixon is an election lawyer and member of the board of directors of the economic think tank Financial Policy Council.

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