Rudy, the Tough Guy Pitch

This has been a good week for Rudy. He's got the cover of the NY Times Sunday magazine featuring a steely-eyed, strong-willed "Crusader." It was in black-and-white perhaps reinforcing Rudy's bifurcated world view. This was followed by the NY Times/CBS poll showing that 82% of GOP primary voters think Rudy has strong leadership qualities. Then there's the 911 anniversary reminding all about "America's Mayor." And don't forget the announced fundraiser from Robert Duvall, conferring an endorsement from the Godfather's unflinching consigliore and Lonesome Dove's macho trail boss. Yep, pretty good. All of it supports Rudy's apparent core theme in his primary run: he's the tough guy who will clean up the world the way he cleaned up New York city. Tough, hard-nosed, determined and resolute. Of course, one person's determined and resolute could be another's stubborn and inflexible which may remind some about the current White House tenant.

Ordinarily, the combination of a speech impediment, a downturned frown mouth and comb-over night be seen as obstacles to an effective delivery by some. Thank goodness he finally accepted his baldness and now combs his side-hair straight back, giving him a sleek aerodynamic look. But Rudy makes it all work. If he were a video game, he has morphed his physical presentation from Super Mario to Mortal Kombat.

Besides his outward style, there are his words, his pitch, which re-enforces the straight shooting, tough guy persona. You may disagree with him -- 31% of GOP primary voters say they do not like his stand on social issues -- but he projects a forthright talking style, no BS, thus perhaps co-opting John McCain's 2000 straight-talk appeal. He's also not afraid to show his emotions from time-to-time, which makes him appear more accessible rather than the flat, seemingly dispassionate Dick Cheney approach.

This may explain why, in spite of his party's base disagreeing with him on many things, he continues to lead his more conservative primarians. It's what a Stanford University professor has called the 93%, meaning that 93% of our assessment of a person is in the demeanor, leaving only 7% for the wonderfully crafted words. As the old Fats Waller song says, "It ain't what you do, it's the way that you do it." For the time being, Rudy's 93% is carrying the day. To round out his hard nose style though, he might benefit with some softer campaign moments to give contrast and depth to his pitch. Remember tough-guy Nicolas Cage in Con Air protecting his daughter's fluffy bunny? Same idea. Rudy recently worked an Iowa cornfield in a starched shirt and tie, suggesting a Nixon walk-on-the-beach in wing-tips moment. He's got to watch that. Tough guys need to lighten up once-and-a-while. But so far, Rudy is on his game. The question is now, is it the game Americans want to play after George W's eight-year Texas version of the "bring it on" tough guy?