Donald Lambro

WASHINGTON -- Rudy Giuliani scored a coup last week when Martin Anderson, President Reagan's influential domestic-policy chief, joined the former mayor's campaign team of economic advisers.

In the race for the Republican presidential nomination, the competition among the top contenders to sign up economic heavyweights has been fierce, as each candidate strives to stake out the toughest budget and tax-cut policies to win the hearts of the GOP's conservative base.

Certainly Anderson, a senior fellow at Hoover, Reagan's closest policy adviser and, now, chief biographer of the Reagan legacy, adds professional prestige to Giuliani's team that includes a number of other top conservatives. Among them: former presidential candidate and magazine publisher Steve Forbes, who has championed the flat tax and private Social Security investment accounts.

While debate in Washington has been dominated by the immigration battle, reining in spending and slaying the tax monster are still the core issues at the party's grassroots.

That's what drew Anderson to Giuliani's candidacy. He was impressed "with his emphasis on getting control of spending" during a long four-hour meeting with a group of 40 Republican leaders in San Francisco "who grilled him on all the issues, from gun control to taxes," Anderson told me.

"Basically, he has the same views as Ronald Reagan on economics. He said once you control spending, then you can cut taxes. But the other candidates haven't got it yet.

"Giuliani talked about making the tax rates 'flatter,' lowering the rates by cutting them across the board, just as Reagan did. But he also wants to make President Bush's tax cuts permanent," Anderson added.

To reinforce his economic credentials (as New York City's mayor, he cut taxes nearly two dozen times), Giuliani recently put out a 12-point agenda to "restore fiscal discipline and cut wasteful spending." Among his priorities, he would reduce the federal civilian workforce by 20 percent and require federal agencies to "identify at least 5 percent to 20 percent in spending reductions."

Another senior Hoover fellow, economist Michael Boskin, who chaired the Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) under President George H.W. Bush, is also advising Giuliani. But other colleagues at the prestigious conservative think tank on the Stanford University campus do not share their support.

John Cogan, who served on President Bush's Social Security reform panel, is backing former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. And former U.S. Treasury assistant secretary John Taylor supports Sen. John McCain.

Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.