Mary Katharine Ham

If you listened closely this week, you might have heard Rudy Giuliani’s presidential campaign crack. Like the hard smack of a pebble against a car windshield, Rudy’s reiteration of his support for public funding of abortion put a knick in his veneer that will keep snapping, crackling, and popping in all directions if there isn’t some serious repair work done, but quick.

First of all, let’s get something straight. I’m a Rudy fan. I like the smile and the strut and the machismo, and all that they portend for both my constant entertainment and consistent protection under a Giuliani administration.

I’ve been delighted to see him become a front-runner in the Republican race for 2008 based on a potent combo of crime-fighting power and charisma. Like McGruff, with less hair. I’m far from knowing I’m behind any one candidate, but I was all ears for Rudy.

As a fiscal/security conservative first, I was willing to consider what Giuliani offered—security creds, tax cuts, terror clarity, electrifying speechifying, and good judges—even if he wasn’t totally in line with my social policy preferences.

But a lot of other people have been willing to listen, too. Unexpected people in what should be Rudy’s toughest crowds—women’s bible study groups in Georgia, members of the Iowa Christian Alliance, Bible-Belt admirers of the tough guy from Manhattan.

It’s no secret that likeability can a president make or break. Just look at the last two failed Democratic nominees for proof. People have wondered why conservatives have been more receptive to Rudy than politicos have expected them to be, especially in comparison to the more palatable-on-paper John McCain. Surely, it’s because they don’t know enough about him yet, the prognosticators say.

Or, maybe it’s that they knew, and the good overshadowed the bad. That was always my thought. After all, just as McCain’s uncanny ability to exude disdain for large parts of the conservative base despite agreeing with them pushed him down the pile, Rudy’s uncanny ability to exude respect despite disagreement has pushed him to the top.

But this week, with his Medicare Part Abortion endorsement, he dealt a serious blow to his support among fiscal conservatives by demonstrating that the man we were assured was a pretty rock-solid fiscal conservative is willing to support throwing public money at the most dubious and divisive of causes.

And, among social conservatives, where his support had been a burgeoning surprise, the CNN clip will undoubtedly be one, big blundering soundbite.

Mary Katharine Ham

Mary Katharine Ham is editor-at-large of, a contributor to Townhall Magazine.

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