Conservatives also know that McCain isn't their biggest fan. On the same day Romney was officially joining the presidential-exploration mix, a "Vanity Fair" article was released portraying McCain as indifferent to issues like abortion and marriage. And then there is his assault on free speech, known as the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance reform, a source of great angst on the right. Conservative misgivings about McCain are a great opening for former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who's known as a conservative ideas guy on a whole host of issues. But, among other things, Gingrich has not put together an exploratory committee, and smart money doesn't have him going all the way.
So where do conservatives go from there? Maybe, just maybe, to their least likely nominee: Rudy. Giuliani has the hard-to-beat advantage of being a household name, known by his first name. In a short-lived 2000 Senate race, he refused to oppose partial-birth abortion, but in 2006 he campaigned for pro-life stalwart Rick Santorum (ex-senator from Pennsylvania). While doing so, he said (possibly with more of an eye on 2008 than 2006 voters): "You never have a political leader in which you have total agreement, not if they're being honest." Giuliani, who led New York after 9/11 as the world watched, recently said, "The reality here is that the Islamo-fundamentalist terrorists are at war with our way of life, with our modern world, with rights for women, religious freedom, societies that have religious freedom." That's clarity you don't always hear from the current president.
So is it Rudy 2008 for the GOP? Not by a long shot. But staying low-key for a while and watching the other guys fight it out, inflicting wounds on one another, is not an insane strategy. At least for America's mayor. And that is something conservatives might want to keep in mind as some appear to be poised to kill off their most obvious conservative alternative early.