Robert Novak

But Republican politics always has been a mystery to Riordan, and he does not realize Giuliani's acceptance on the California right. In contrast to Wilson's defiant pro-choice advocacy, Giuliani trumpets his personal opposition to abortion. His first important California backer and his state chairman is a conservative: Bill Simon Jr., who trounced Riordan in the 2002 primary for governor.

Simon has helped amass a long roster of conservatives, which includes: Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich, former State Sen. Chuck Poochigian, former U.S. Secretary of Energy John Herrington, entrepreneur Bill Mundell (son of Nobel economics laureate Robert Mundell), former State Chairman Frank Visco, and Congressmen David Dreier, Ed Royce, George Radanovich and Devin Nunes.

Behind the names are rank-and-file California Republicans. The Real Clear Politics average of all polls for the month preceding Oct. 14 gives Giuliani a 14-point California lead over Fred Thompson. He is 21 points ahead in the most recent survey by the authoritative Field poll. With Republican delegates winner-take-all in each congressional district, Giuliani today would capture nearly all of the state's 173 delegates.

The conventional wisdom is that California firepower will be to no avail if Mitt Romney romps through Iowa and New Hampshire, as John Kerry did in 2004 to clinch the Democratic nomination. Would California and the other 19 Republican primaries on Feb. 5 then rubberstamp Romney, as later Democratic primaries did Kerry?

Not necessarily, concedes one of Romney's top strategists, who believes two candidates will survive into Feb. 5. The presumption in political circles is that there are contests in so many states that day that no candidate can personally campaign or even run TV ads in California. That is not true of Giuliani. His supporters here have the funds and organization to actively seek those 173 delegates, setting the stage for what they hope is a death struggle with Hillary Clinton in the Golden State.

Robert Novak

Robert Novak (1931-2009) was a syndicated columnist and editor of the Evans-Novak Political Report.

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