Giuliani Hones Abortion Stance for GOP Primary
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
We turn now to one presidential contender, and the help he'll need from voters to win the nomination. Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani is the only Republican in the race who supports abortion rights. But in a recent speech he said as president he would appoint judges who were strict constructionists.
Mr. RUDY GIULIANI (Former Mayor, New York City): Like Justice Scalia and Justice Thomas.
MONTAGNE: Who have written that the Constitution does not guarantee the right to abortion. That's also the belief of most Republican primary voters, who Giuliani needs to win the nomination.
Here's more from NPR's Ina Jaffe.
INA JAFFE: On a recent weekday morning, the Mission Depot Coffee House in Riverside, California was crowded with Giuliani backers doped on caffeine in the anticipation of seeing their candidate in the flesh.
(Soundbite of applause)
JAFFE: When Giuliani arrived, he made no prepared remarks. It was all handshakes and snapshots.
Mr. RUDY GIULIANI (Former Mayor, New York City): All right, want to get a picture?
Unidentified Woman #1: Sure, why not?
Mr. GIULIANI: Well, you got camera, you look like you want to get a picture.
(Soundbite of laughter)
JAFFE: He never discussed issues at all with those whom came to see him. He saved that for a short news conference afterwards.
Unidentified Woman #2: Mayor, I have a question about your position on abortion. You said...
JAFFE: Giuliani said he saw no contradiction between favoring abortion rights and appointing conservative judges, strict constructionists who would be likely to overturn them.
Mr. GIULIANI: Well, strict construction goes way beyond any one issue. It goes beyond abortion. It goes beyond gun rights. It goes beyond free speech. So I know people that are focused on just one issue. But if you're running for president, you got to look at the whole scope of things.
JAFFE: This position won't satisfy voters for whom legal abortion is a top issue. But they're not the ones Giuliani needs to appeal to right now, says Jack Pitney, a professor of government at Claremont McKenna College in California.
Professor JACK PITNEY (Claremont McKenna College): Rudy Giuliani is a pro-choice candidate running in a party with lots of pro-life primary voters. So by talking about the Supreme Court appointments, he hopes to cross the threshold of acceptability without specifically changing his position on the issue itself.
JAFFE: That threshold is more like a barricade as far social conservatives are concerned. Gary Bauer, head of an organization called American Values, says it doesn't matter what Giuliani says about appointing judges. Abortion is an issue that just can't be finessed.
Mr. GARY BAUER (President, American Values): His apparently contradictory formulation on this issue is actually likely to alienate both sides. The politicians who get in the most trouble at the end of the day are those that try to be everything to everybody on something that is so fundamental.
JAFFE: But not all Republicans are social conservatives like Bauer, and Giuliani is counting on the support of the many who are pro-choice. Jennifer Stockman, co-chair of Republican Majority for Choice, says she's concerned about Giuliani putting more anti-abortion judges on the federal bench, but she's still generally comfortable with his position.
Ms. JENNIFER STOCKMAN (Republican Majority for Choice): If a candidate truly doesn't use abortion as a litmus test, this is probably the most appropriate philosophy, frankly.
JAFFE: Despite the name of Stockman's organization, polls show the majority of Republicans are not in favor of abortion rights. But Ann Stone, head of a like-minded group called Republicans for Choice, hopes Giuliani's candidacy will change that. She couldn't wait for him to run.
Ms. ANN STONE (Republicans for Choice): And in fact, our phone number was actually sort of a Rudy Giuliani code: 2-1-2 being New York City, 0-8 being next year, and 9-0 is the year we were founded.
JAFFE: Was that on purpose?
Ms. STONE: Yes, it was.
JAFFE: The way Stone sees it, Giuliani's candidacy could move her party back to its roots.
Ms. STONE: Less government interference in your life and belief in the individual's right to control their own lives and their destinies. We have that opportunity with Giuliani that we haven't had in decades.
JAFFE: It is conceivable now that the Republican Party could nominate a pro-choice candidate, says political scientist Jack Pitney.
Prof. PITNEY: A lot of the focus is on national security, where a lot of Republicans see him as tough and conservative.
JAFFE: Giving Giuliani an opportunity to break with decades of GOP history. He just has to convince Republican primary voters to overlook his position on abortion and trust he can keep them safe.
Ina Jaffe, NPR News.