On 'Feeling Thermometer,' Giuliani Is the Hottest

By Michael Powell and Zachary A. Goldfarb
Wednesday, March 8, 2006

The political artist formerly known as Hizzoner -- the sometimes wrathful Rudolph W. Giuliani -- is the politician about whom the most Americans feel warm and cuddly, according to a new national "thermometer" poll.

Quinnipiac University asked 1,900 voters to rate the warmth of their feelings about a dozen political leaders-- a "feeling thermometer" the pollsters called it. Fully 63.5 percent of Americans report feeling warmly about Giuliani, who ruled New York as mayor from 1994 to 2001. Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) evokes warm feelings in 59.9 percent of respondents, while Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) gets 59.7 percent.

McCain and Giuliani, who just might face off in the 2008 Republican presidential primaries, draw warmly in every corner of the nation, from blue state to red and magenta. In fact, Giuliani obtained his hottest rating from white evangelical voters.

What's not known is how many of those often-core Republican voters are aware that the once-annulled, once-divorced, thrice-married Giuliani favors abortion rights, gay rights and gun control. (Giuliani's first marriage was annulled after 14 years when, he says, he discovered he was married to his second cousin.)

"Will the third marriage and the fact that his second wife called him an adulterer hurt him?" asked Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. "It's clear he has an image as a very strong leader -- what's not clear is if the Republican base knows about or cares about his view on social issues."

Nor is it clear that most Americans have observed that Giuliani warmth up close. In the day, the mayor was wont to dismiss "actually really stupid questions" from "jerky liberals." And an adviser once suggested he smile whenever he was tempted (often) to sneer.

But Giuliani is a famous crime fighter who was strongest in the city's darkest moment -- Sept. 11, 2001. That could serve him no less well than war heroism does McCain. "Giuliani is perceived as a hero in the war on terror," said Hank Sheinkopf, a longtime Democratic Party political consultant. "And as an independent leader who will do what's right."

A possible Democratic challenger with a familiar name, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.), is rated warmly by 50.4 percent of respondents -- her husband, former president Bill Clinton, ranks substantially better, viewed warmly by 56.1 percent of Americans.

More Voting Flaws

An advocacy group warned yesterday of flaws in the ways several states are implementing new voter registration systems, a problem it said could improperly keep millions of people off the voter rolls in this fall's elections.

After the ballot controversies in Florida in the 2000 presidential election, Congress passed the Help America Vote Act. It required states to modernize election procedures, including by establishing central registration databases that would verify voter registration information by comparing it against data on file with state motor vehicle departments and the federal Social Security Administration.

The New York-based Brennan Center for Justice released a first-of-its-kind survey saying that at least seven states -- Iowa, Maryland, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, Virginia and Washington -- will automatically reject applications whenever the data don't match, even if a person registered properly and is eligible to vote. This could potentially disenfranchise up to 20 percent of eligible voters in these states.

"Most states use the match process to clean up the voter rolls," said Brennan Center associate counsel Justin Levitt. "A small minority use the match as a condition of registration. If you don't match, you can't register to vote."

Matches might not occur, for example, when a man named "William" registers under the name "Bill" or when a woman registers for the first time with her married name or if there is a typo.

State officials reached yesterday said that, while they were not familiar with the report, they were confident that even when a match doesn't occur, voters would have a second chance to register. Also, federal law allows voters who show up but are not registered to cast provisional ballots.

This issue is one of the latest in a litany of concerns about states' ability to upgrade their elections equipment to comply with federal law. For example, the Department of Justice sued New York last week for failing to install a statewide registration database and failing to upgrade its voting machines so they could be used easily by disabled people.

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