Republican presidential frontrunner Rudy Giuliani, not in Armani, hooks up
with Donald Trump.
The new Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) poll is very good news for the Democratic and Republican frontrunners, Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani. It’s actually good times in the Golden State for the two most famous representatives of the Empire State.
The former New York mayor and acclaimed 9/11 figure Giuliani has a big lead in the Republican primary over John McCain and others. He’s sitting at 33%, while John McCain is at 19% and the slow-starting Mitt Romney, despite oodles of publicity, is at 7%. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has 14%, but he’s not a declared candidate, despite his active schedule and somewhat active fundraising. (He’s raised about two million bucks for a personal PAC.)
Current New York Senator and former First Lady Hillary Clinton is also in a strong position, though not as strong as Giuliani’s, in the Democratic primary. She leads rookie phenom Barack Obama — who has twice drawn huge crowds to rallies in Oakland and LA — 35% to 24%. She also raised $2.6 million at a fundraiser at billionaire Ron Burkle’s famed (think Myrna Loy) Green Acres estate in LA last weekend, which I believe is an all-time record for a presidential campaign fundraiser at a private home in California.
The plucky John Edwards, who would be giving Clinton fits right about now had Obama not emerged late last year and early this year, is third with 14%. And New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, in some ways the best qualified of the candidates — two-time landslide winner as governor in a swing state, renowned global trouble-shooter, veteran ex-congressman/House Intelligence Committee member and holder of two Cabinet posts in the Clinton Administration: UN Ambassador and Secretary of Energy — is slowly but steadily emerging from the land of the asterisks, running fourth now with 6%.
In Obama and Richardson, incidentally, we are seeing the emergence of what might be called the Bulworthian universe. In that satirical Warren Beatty film, the rapping former matinee idol called for, in character, a world in which everyone blanks one another till all the races meld together. Obama is the product of a union between an African father and a white American mother. Richardson, the first major Latino candidate, is the product of a union between a white American banker and a Mexican mother, born in LA and raised in Mexico City.
In any event, Obama is the only Democratic candidate who has shown any relaxed confidence in public campaigning in California so far. Clinton, who actually did much better than Obama at last weekend’s Las Vegas Presidential forum, still hasn’t had a real public campaign event in California. Unless you count her appearance with LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, where the pair urged people to pick up their trash.
In sharp contrast to Clinton, the Republican frontrunner, Mayor Giuliani, has shown a notable facility in speaking to large Californian crowds. He wowed the state Republican convention last month and served up a tasty luncheon feast to a big Silicon Valley crowd.
Giuliani, unlike McCain and the others, has a strong theme going. He is presenting himself, in an intellectually coherent yet accessible way, as being in the Churchill/Reagan lineage defending Western civilization, something quite credible given his dramatic role with 9/11. He hasn’t been very accessible to the press, but he has been more accessible than Clinton, McCain, or Obama.
California is absolutely key for Giuliani. He is not the candidate of the right-wing Republican “base,” a vote that may or may not manifest itself in the early states of Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. I expect Giuliani to do well in Nevada, where he has a clear lead. The other first group states are unclear. So he must win California in order to win the nomination.
Clinton is another matter. Hers is “the name you know” in the Democratic Party. She can survive early losses. She’s in a dead heat in Iowa, leads in Nevada, and leads in New Hampshire. South Carolina will be a challenge for her, with Southern white males inclined to go for fellow Carolinian and blacks increasingly — following the endorsement yesterday of Jesse Jackson — inclined to go for Obama. So she may well need a Golden State win, also.
Which she is well positioned to get. The Clintons have a long and happy history in California. Bill Clinton inherited most of the Gary Hart network here and built upon that, in the process turning California into the mostly blue state we think of it as today. Hillary Clinton has that base, as well as the calling card of being the first major female candidate for president, a card she is increasingly playing as she is challenged by various would-be movement types among her legion of critics.
But in order to win California, Clinton is going to need to get outside her comfort zone shell, something she has yet to do in all her appearances here as a candidate. (She was actually quite forthcoming campaigning for then Governor Gray Davis a few years ago, but that is another matter entirely.)
One noteworthy caveat to this first major public poll of the new, early California Presidential primary is that Fred Thompson was not included in the Republican soundings. The one-term senator from Tennessee-turned Law and Order TV star has started stirring up some real attention. My guess is he hurts and perhaps kills Romney if he runs, since he is a consistent conservative, and draws from Giuliani, since they both have established media images as resolute leaders on the various screens we all use in our lives. (Thompson also memorably co-starred in a couple of blockbuster movies, notably The Hunt For Red October and In The Line Of Fire.)
It’s a new inning for presidential politics in California.