Our friend Hunter Baker has written a very insightful piece on current politics for the excellent newspaper Human Events. Baker considers the recent groundswell of support for Rudy Giuliani for the Republican presidential nomination, and remains skeptical. Baker sees what makes Guiuliani so appealing:

Republicans hungry for revenge after getting blown out in the 2006 elections are thinking hard about letting the mayor carry the party’s banner in 2008. As Michael Barone has demonstrated, Giuliani has the potential to turn the electoral map substantially in the GOP’s favor. But the appeal is visceral. Here is a man who imposed order on a crime-ridden, seemingly ungovernable city. He took the hardest and best shots the New York liberal establishment had to offer and proved to his skills as a political streetfighter.

Baker recognizes, however, the huge mountain of problems Giuliani will have to climb in order to obtain the support of religious conservatives and others concerned about the nation’s current moral tenor:

. . . Giuliani has a long way to go to reassure nervous pro-lifers about his judicial intentions. Consider the following lines from a speech the mayor gave to the National Abortion Rights Action League in 2001:

This event shows that people of different political parties and different political thinking can unite in support of choice. In doing so, we are upholding a distinguished tradition that began in our city starting with the work of Margaret Sanger and the movement for reproductive freedom that began in the early decades of the 20th century.

So it is consistent with that philosophy (of political freedom) to believe that in the most personal and difficult choices that a woman has to make with regard to a pregnancy, those choices should be made based on that person’s conscience and that person’s way of thinking and feeling. The government shouldn’t dictate that choice by making it a crime or making it illegal. (parenthetical added)

There is a great deal to make social conservatives skittish in this brief portion of a short speech. No candidate of social conservatives would welcome NARAL in the first place, much less praise Margaret Sanger, whose name is anathema to pro-lifers of all stripes. What might be more concerning is the equation of abortion with personal rights of conscience. That is the language of Supreme Court opinions, the kind that invoke penumbras of this and emanations of that as they remove issues of great controversy from the democratic process.

Baker then considers the likely scenarios for Giuliani’s candidacy, as regards social conservatives:

When the primary season moves past window shopping into decision-making, Giuliani will be pressed hard about his speech to NARAL and whether he really believes in appointing judges who won’t legislate from the bench. . . .

The deal is on the table. If Giuliani says he thinks abortion should be legal, but that the Constitution—interpreted properly—leaves that decision in the hands of the democratic process, then he will be the first pro-choice candidate to carry the GOP banner in a long time. If he is unwilling to be quite so explicit, then his opponents will open up with both barrels. McCain will have the largest opening with his strong pro-life voting record. Maybe the mayor will still have the votes, but it becomes much less of a sure thing. Much less.

I think that Baker’s assessment is spot-on, and it seems likely that this race is far from decided.