Giuliani may peel off liberal campus votes

If a big city mayoralty, two divorces and video documentation of dressing in drag might hamper Rudy Giuliani’s campaign in the Bible Belt, his Yale supporters think these credentials might bode well on Cross Campus.

Yale Students for Giuliani, which held its first meeting Sept. 26, is determined to make “America’s mayor” America’s next president. Although still few in numbers — their Facebook.com group lists just 17 students — members of the new organization said they are confident in their candidate’s electability and his potential appeal to even some left-leaning students. But others said they doubted Giuliani’s ability to garner much support on campus.

Giuliani’s supporters said they plan to promote their candidate on campus while volunteering with the campaign in Connecticut and neighboring New Hampshire. The group, a chapter of the national campaign, is more oriented toward connecting Yale students with volunteer opportunities in the campaign than in organizing events on campus, member Joe Hathaway ’09 said.

Members said that many in the group have volunteered or interned with campaign on the state level. Yale Students for Giuliani is primarily a vehicle for coordinating with the state or national campaign and encouraging other students to volunteer as well, members sid.

Although their efforts for reaching out to Yale students and Connecticut residents are still in the planning stages, supporters said they are confident in their ability to draw Yale students to the former New York City chief administrator. Because many Yale students are not registered to vote in Connecticut, Yale for Giuliani’s on-campus activities will largely be limited to raising awareness and encouraging absentee voting, members said.

Group member Stafford Olivia Palmieri ’08 said Giuliani’s social moderation relative to his GOP rivals makes him the Republican most palatable to Yale’s overwhelmingly liberal student body. Giulioani is a fiscal conservative, she said, but his views on social justice are compatible with the ideas of many college students — even if he does not consider big government the best solution.

“Yale students are more tolerant and more open-minded, which comes with the territory of academia and being of the younger generation,” Palmieri said. “Heightened awareness of social justice gets manifested [by liberals] in government being the solution, and that’s a fundamental tenet of liberalism that sharply diverges from the smaller-government ideas of conservatism.”

Group member Sudipta Bandyopadhyay ’08 said he agrees that a Giuliani candidacy would redraw ideological lines, especially if he is matched against the leading Democratic candidates, who are on the far left of the political spectrum.

“It will be an intriguing conversation with the rest of our colleagues on campus, especially since Giuliani will be a moderate Republican facing either a very liberal Obama or a very liberal Hillary Clinton,” he said in an e-mail. “Unlike recent Republicans, Giuliani’s nomination and campaign will be very accessible to moderate and even left-of-center voters on campus.”

Hathaway, who volunteered with the campaign in his home state of New Jersey, said he thinks Giuliani also has the potential to appeal to voters in traditionally “blue” states, such as Connecticut, which have trended Democratic in recent years.

But some self-identified liberals said they are not convinced. John Ela ’11 said he doubts whether Giuliani’s views on social issues would be enough to draw liberals across party lines in the general election.

“As a Republican, liberals are less likely to vote for him and more likely to go for a Democratic candidate,” he said.

Other liberal students interviewed said they do not agree with Giuliani’s politics and would not consider voting for him.

While not all Republicans are set on Giuliani either, some credited groups like Yale Students for Giuliani with encouraging dialogue and debate about the 2008 race among students.

“As far as students go, there’s a heightened awareness that’s more so than usual because of the very evident and obvious presence of groups at the forefront of lot of people’s minds a lot earlier,” said Steven Harvey ’11, who is leaning toward supporting former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney in the primary. “There’s more lunch-table discussion than you’d usually encounter during October a year before the election.”

Among the other factors that might draw Yalies to Giuliani is his choice of advisers, particularly Yale international affairs professor Charles Hill as his foreign policy adviser, Palmieri said.

“He has surrounded himself with very, very smart people, not the least of which is Professor Charles Hill,” she said.

Hill declined to comment, citing a desire to keep his role in the campaign separate from his role at Yale.

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