With regard to some recent dust-ups, I fall into the “enormous respect for Thomas Edsall” camp, but I’ve found myself tending to disagree with a lot of his more recent work. For example, he has the current cover story in The New Republic, arguing that Giuliani can, too, win the GOP nomination as a pro-choice, pro-gay candidate largely because Republican primary voters don’t care about that stuff anymore:
Giuliani is the beneficiary of an upheaval within the Republican electorate–an upheaval that was catalyzed by September 11 but is becoming apparent only now, as the GOP hosts its first primary battle since the terrorist attacks. In brief, among Republican voters, the litmus test issues of abortion and gay marriage have been losing traction, subordinated to the Iraq war and terrorism. According to the Pew Research Center, 31 percent of GOP voters name Iraq as their top priority, and 17 percent choose terrorism and security. Just 7 percent name abortion and 1 percent name gay marriage.
This is interesting stuff, but I’m not sure it indicates that abortion and gay marriage have fallen in salience nearly enough. After all, I wouldn’t say abortion is my top priority in the coming election, but if Barack Obama were to announce tomorrow that he’s pro-life and wants to about justices who’ll overturn Roe v. Wade my level of enthusiasm for his candidacy was drop to zero. Precisely because it would be so unusual for a Democratic candidate to come out for overturning Roe or, say, privatizing Social Security, I can afford to make those issues litmus tests even though they aren’t my top priorities.
Right now, neither Fred Thompson nor Newt Gingrich are in the race, neither Mitt Romney nor John McCain are people Republicans are enthusiastic about, and neither Tommy Thompson, Mike Huckabee, or Tom Tancredo are considered “viable” so there’s no coalescence of pro-life, anti-Rudy sentiment. But this is where that business about it being early comes into play. At the end of the day, I think you’ll find that most Republicans really want their party to be against abortion and if Giuliani is still front-running months and months from now somebody (my guess is McCain) will emerge as the pro-life alternative and win.