Jonah Goldberg

The most interesting political matchup right now is between former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani because they're running for the same voters.

Over the last 20 years, the largely accurate conventional wisdom has been that the GOP could not nominate a pro-choice politician, just as the Democratic Party could never nominate a pro-life one. Some Republicans, including Ronald Reagan and the elder George Bush, had to move from a middle-of-the-road position on abortion to the right-hand guardrail, while some Democrats who once leaned to the pro-life side of the road had to make a similar move in the other direction.

That's being put to the test this time around. Romney was a dedicated pro-choice politician for most of his career. When he ran against Ted Kennedy for the Senate, he was as pro-choice as you can get.

Now, at least partly to win over social conservatives, Romney is unapologetically pro-life, saying that he realized the folly of his ways when dealing with embryonic stem cell controversies as governor. I have some quibbles with his conversion story, but that's a subject for another column.

Then there's Rudy. He's going a different way. While tacking and trimming somewhat, he's basically staying pro-choice. Whatever his true convictions, the simple fact is that he has little choice. Unlike Romney, who had the stem cell controversy as an impetus for his conversion, Giuliani - who once almost went into the priesthood - now has no plausible excuse to switch positions even if he wanted one. You need some story, some event, to believably pull off a switcheroo of that proportion, and running for president isn't one of them. So, while he's saying the right - and Right - things about judges and judicial restraint, he's not backing off.

It seems indisputable that prior to 9/11, Romney's strategy would win and Giuliani might not even bother trying.

Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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