Et tu Rudy?

The current issue of the New Yorker includes an amusing story about the "flexibility" of Mitt Romney's political views. As an unsuccessful candidate for Senator from Massachusetts, Romney tried to position himself to the left of Ted Kennedy, and as Massachusetts Governor he was a liberal Republican. Now that he's running for the Republican nomination for President, Romney contends he is from the "Republican wing of the Republican Party," positioning himself as the only true conservative among the front-runners. Ryan Lizza, author of the New Yorker article, is hardly the first person to point out Romney's evident opportunism, but Lizza makes the interesting observation that Romney's willingness to engage in rebranding reflects his background in management consulting. Changing course on a dime to satisfy consumer demand is a virtue for a company. Lizza questions whether the same is true in politics.

Meanwhile, until now, Rudy Giuliani's strategy for dealing with basically the same issue has been exactly the opposite. Like Romney, Giuliani was the Chief Executive of a liberal polity and, to get elected, had to espouse liberal views on some make-or-break issues, like abortion and gay rights. Betting that Republican primary voters would value sincerity over purity, Giuliani has run a campaign in which he says to social conservatives that they should support him because of his tough foreign policy views and his record on issues such as crime fighting, and not be bothered by his socially liberal views, especially since the latter would not guide him on the one issue where they can make the most difference in a President, judicial appointments. It's too early to say which strategy has worked better. Giuliani leads in national polls but Romney is doing well in early primary states.

The virtue of the Giuliani strategy is that it doesn't look like a strategy at all. As the saying goes, "Sincerity: If you can fake it, you've got it made." (Variations of this line have been attributed to numerous pundits. Columbia World of Quotations credits NPR newsman Daniel Schorr.) Now I'm not saying that Giuliani necessarily is faking it. I'm just saying that whether or not he stands by his convictions about abortion and gay rights, there is a strategic advantage in appearing to do so, even with Republican primary voters who do not share these convictions.

And that makes Giuliani's latest pronouncement all the more mystifying. As reported in the NY tabloids, campaigning in New Hampshire, Giuliani endorsed---wait for it---the Boston Red Sox! Hoping to fend off charges of political opportunism, Giuliani claimed that he was a fan of the American League. Yet Yankees fans are supposed to root for anybody playing against the Red Sox. Indeed, if the Red Sox were playing the Iranian Revolutionary Guard intramural champion team, I would think a Yankees fan of Giuiliani's supposed rabidness would be obligated to cheer for the Iranians. Count this one a victory for Romney (who will have a hard time taking credit for it as a Bostonian because he seems intent on hiding the fact that he has ever heard of Massachusetts). Go Rockies!