In a speech before 2,000 “Value Voters” today, Rudy Giuliani decided to cherry-pick from his past instead of entirely ignoring it. Giuliani’s decision to draw upon his time as New York Mayor had some success though it was a less crowd-pleasing approach than Mitt Romney, who last night gave little indication he used to be Massachusetts Governor.
The usually bellicose Giuliani spoke in soothing, conciliatory tones to an audience that vehemently disagrees with his pro-choice, gay-rights positions. “We don’t lose trust with our political leaders when they’re not perfect,” Giuliani reasoned. “We lose trust when they’re dishonest.” And he gave a long explanation of Christianity as a “religion of inclusion.”
The characterization was met with silence. Giuliani failed to get the crowd going until he recalled kicking out pornographers in Times Square. Indeed, Giuliani’s speech seemed to reveal more about the narrow set of issues of deep importance to summit attendees than the candidate himself. Conservative but not explicitly Christian conservative subjects like welfare reform and law enforcement were met with just polite applause.
Even Giuliani’s familiar references to 9/11 and Reagan did not appear to fully satiate the appetite of values voters, though he can’t be accused of not trying. “Our goal in the overall terrorists war on us is the same goal that Ronald Reagan had for the Cold War,” Giuliani prefaced, before quoting Reagan: “‘They lose, we win'”
Romney played better to the crowd. He won over the audience with lines like, “what takes place in your house is more important than what happens in the White House.” But “your house,” Romney solemnly warned, is under threat by the “modern plague of internet pornography” which the candidate would deal with by giving internet pornographers long prison sentences and “an ankle bracelet if they ever got out.”
Romney spoke of broad cultural conservative values and only mentioned his specific religion in passing. “I imagine one or two of you have heard I’m Mormon,” he quipped, before giving another paean to American exceptionalism. Romney’s pandering may have gotten more applause lines, but Giuliani’s speech hardly bombed and he was more consistent with past behavior and rhetoric. In the long run, Rudy may be closer to discovering how to please voters with, and without, values.