Jonah Goldberg

Maybe I'm remembering this wrong. But I could have sworn we spent the last seven years talking about how the Republican Party is the party of backward red states - where hate is a family value, fluffy animals are shot, and God is everyone's co-pilot - and how the Democratic Party is the avant-garde of the peace-loving, Europe-copycatting blue states, where Christianity is a troubling "lifestyle choice," animals are for hugging, and hate is never, ever a family value.

Admittedly, over time the red state-blue state thing was eclipsed by other cliches about how the GOP had been hijacked by "theocrats" or by K Street corporate lickspittles, warmongers, immigrant-haters, hurricane-ignoring nincompoops and, for a moment during the Mark Foley scandal, cybersex offenders. I can dredge up all the relevant quotes, but if you've been paying attention, I shouldn't have to.

In 2006, the Democrats took advantage of these accumulated perceptions, as they should have, and charged back into power in both the House and the Senate.

So now the GOP is in the minority, and for the first time in 80 years, the White House doesn't have a candidate of any kind in the presidential race. And so the Republican Party gets to pick its next standard-bearer from scratch.

Here's the interesting bit: The GOP rank and file is steadfastly refusing to play to type.

The front-runner in most polls is Rudy Giuliani, a pro-choice, anti-gun, immigration-expansionist former mayor of the capital of Blue America, New York City. Just last weekend, Giuliani finished a close second in the CPAC straw poll of conservative activists (and first if you add the activists' first-choice and second-choice ballots).

Giuliani has, with only a few minor exceptions, refused to pander to the conservative base of the Republican Party, and yet he's the man to beat. It's early, and a lot of GOP voters don't know his record. But this is still hard to reconcile with the standard image of Republican voters. When George W. Bush beat Al Gore in 2000, for example, the late Boston Globe columnist David Nyhan wrote that all those "angry white males" could claim victory and "go back to their day jobs - oiling their Smith & Wessons, hectoring pregnant girls scurrying into abortion clinics, jeering at welfare mothers."

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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