The reason that Rudy is getting so much support from conservatives, in spite of a poor record on social issues, is his Gestalt. It screams ANTI-LIBERAL! Rudy is the anti-Kerry—the very opposite of a mincing, apologetic, guilt-addled elite liberal. A lot of people like that. Whether you can win a nomination on Gestalt remains to be seen, but it’s carried Rudy a good way with conservatives already.
Matt Stoller made a similar point:
He makes the same mistake that a lot of Democrats make, assuming that conservatives think the way that we do. They don’t. They are authoritarians. Gay marriage, abortion, taxes, national security, none of it really matters to them. What they are looking for is an authoritarian to look like he’s taking charge, and the way an authoritarian takes charge is to attack liberals and stomp on people who aren’t like them. Giuliani did this in New York, so he’s a rock star in Alabama. It’s the same thing with Mitt Romney – he’s not even being the least bit subtle about reversing everything he ‘believed’ in Massachusetts, but it doesn’t matter. The right-wing base is entirely unprincipled, subduing any concerns they might have over political issues to a sheer authoritarian impulse.
I don’t think an “authoritarian impulse” is the right word for it. It is, instead, the politics of pure resentment. You begin by identifying some people you don’t like, and then you stick it to ’em. Giuliani is disliked by both civil libertarians and civil rights leaders and is, therefore, a good guy. What’s more, he doesn’t “mince” (except when wearing drag). So nevermind that there’s no indication Giuliani has the capacity to do the job of president. There’s ample evidence that he can do the job as the right sees it — namely, pissing off liberals and perhaps crushing us. This, naturally, is why conservative governance is such a joke.