Fourth, the narrowest of victories in 2000 and 2004 give Republicans pause for 2008. During this decade, Democrats have become more competitive with Republicans in the South, the Sunbelt, and the Rocky Mountain regions, so that a modest Democratic breakthrough in one or more of these areas would return Democrats to the White House. Republicans must counter by becoming more competitive with Democrats in the Northeast. Eisenhower enabled Republicans to win there in 1952, and only Giuliani among Republican candidates appears to have any chance of breaking through into this Democratic stronghold.
Fifth, if Republicans nominate a staunch conservative in 2008, they will risk alienating mainstream America and losing in a landslide, which they did in 1964 with Barry Goldwater. In 1952, Republicans nominated the centrist Eisenhower rather than “Mr. Conservative,” Senator Taft. To date Giuliani appears to be the centrist standard bearer among Republicans, balancing his conservative views on crime and terrorism with his liberal views on a few social issues.
Sixth, Republicans in 1952 offered a balanced ticket, ideologically and geographically, balancing the centrist Eisenhower from New York with the conservative Richard Nixon from California. Should Republicans replicate that approach in 2008, Giuliani would run with a conservative running mate from the American heartland. In 1980, Ronald Reagan not only balanced his ticket with a moderate, George Herbert Walker Bush, but he also gradually moved to the center on a some issues, recognizing that his more extreme positions would not play well with the dominant center in American politics.
Seventh, today’s overriding issue, terrorism and homeland security, puts Giuliani front and center on the presidential stage just as the Korean War did for Eisenhower in 1952. Eisenhower said that if elected he would go to Korea and bring an end to the Korean War. In the matter of terrorism and homeland security, no other candidate rivals Giuliani’s credibility and authority.
For all of this to fall into place, Republicans must have an insatiable thirst to win that causes them to subordinate ideological purity to political practicality. Republicans did that in 1952. Will they in 2008? History could repeat itself.
A leading scholar in the intersection of faith and politics in the United States, Charles Dunn was named Dean of the Robertson School of Government in August 2004.
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