With the Values Voter Presidential Debate sponsored by a collection of second-tier Religious Right leaders scheduled for tonight, the organizers are still pressing hard to get top-tier candidates who have refused to participate (Thompson, Giuliani, Romney, and McCain) to change their minds, claiming that the straw poll being held at the debate will “decide the nominee” and warning them that if they don’t show up, “they’re going to be hurt substantially.”
When asked a few weeks back why they weren’t going to be attending this debate, most of the top candidates made excuses about scheduling conflicts, except for Rudy Giuliani:
The Giuliani camp didn’t even bother with the scheduling-conflict ruse, providing the Sun with the text of a letter the former mayor’s campaign manager, Michael DuHaime, sent to the debate’s organizers on Friday. “Thank you for your kind invitation for Mayor Giuliani to attend a presidential debate hosted by Values Voters,” Mr. DuHaime wrote. “Unfortunately Mayor Giuliani will be unable to accept your invitation.”
Apparently, the reason the Giuliani campaign didn’t bother with the scheduling conflict excuse is that, according to this recent update in the AP Daybook, he is actually going to be in Fort Lauderdale today:
NEW* GIULIANI in Fort Lauderdale, FL: At 3:30 PM Rudy Giuliani holds a press availability at Advanced Roofing, located at 2100 NW 21st Ave. [Associated Press Daybook, 9/17/07]
Was Giuliani just keeping his options open in case other leading candidates decided to participate? Or perhaps he has decided to trek down to Florida in order to meet with the debate organizers in private in an attempt to placate them before the debate without having to answer for joining them publicly?
If not, then this is a rather staggering slap-in-the-face to the debate organizers, because rather than schedule Giuliani to be somewhere that would at least provide a plausible excuse for not attending tonight’s debate, his campaign’s decision to drop him less than 4 miles away from the debate venue on the very day it is being held can only be seen as attempt to send an unmistakable signal to these leaders that he does not want or need their support.
So which is it? Is Giuliani in Florida today to secretly pander to the very right-wing leaders he has publicly blown off or is he there taunting them and sending them a very clear message that he plans to run without seeking their support?