Tonight is a pivotal night at the Republican Convention as two of the Party’s representatives with the most throw among mainstreamers from both sides will take to the stage. Both John McCain and Rudy Giuliani should prove to be effective spokespeople for W and company. But neither of them could be taking the stage without at least a few negative vibes. After all, they both have sharp disagreements with the administration and the Party platform, and these differences are even more dramatic when you bring the delegates into the mix. This theme will of course continue throughout the week as the moderates are paraded across the stage to give a compassionate face to an extreme platform. Let’s put it this way, competition for the best actor Tony Award will be stiff this year (and Arnold will have to stretch a whole lot more than he did when playing Conan the Barbarian).
And all of this brings up an incredibly important question. If you’re trying to put a moderate face on today’s Republican Party, then why wouldn’t you be featuring the world’s most popular (and until recently, trusted) moderate Republican on the planet? Has the Bush administration soiled Colin Powell too much?
On Meet the Press, Tim Russert confronted Rudy with just a few of the dramatic differences between his Party and his own politics. The platform supports (among other things): A constitutional ban on all abortions, a constitutional ban on gay marriages and no benefits for gay couples, severe limits on stem cell research and gun control non-laws that are in direct opposition to what Giuliani thinks makes sense.
In short, you’ve got a guy who lives, eats, drinks and breathes New York addressing an arena filled with people who would rather be anywhere else.
During the MTP interview, Rudy did a fairly good job defending these differences although he slipped into Republican media training mode on a couple of occasions: He complained that Russert was asking him these questions and not asking the same questions of Democrats who also have differences among Party members. (Well, first, Dem differences aren’t nearly as overwhelming and second, you’re being interviewed, you’re speaking in primetime, and it’s the Republican Convention this week!). Rudy then reminded Russert that W is the first president ever to support stem cell research at all. Man, I can take that kind of nonsense from the First Lady, but how did they get Rudy to parrot this kind of nonsense?
The ability to effectively smooth out of these differences will make or break the convention. Expect both Giuliani and McCain to focus almost exclusively on the war on terror. And expect them both to be sizing each other up throughout the evening. Because if W doesn’t win in November, guys like John and Rudy will be fighting for the heart and soul of their Party instead of just providing its friendly facade.