From Susan Milligan, Globe Staff
WASHINGTON -- Republicans overwhelmingly want Ronald Reagan. But for the moment, they'll take Rudy Giuliani.
A poll of 2,000 Republicans unveiled yesterday reveals a party in search of a leader, with the overwhelming majority hoping for someone like the former president. But when faced with the slate of ten announced GOP candidates and two potential contenders -- Republicans favored former New York Mayor Giuliani across the board, with even so-called ``moralists'' preferring the candidate who has drawn ire from conservatives because of his divorces and pro-abortion rights stance.
``Giuliani is universally known to all Republicans,'' and scores high on ``leadership'' qualities among primary voters, said Tony Fabrizio, the GOP pollster who directed the comprehensive study of Republican voters. Among a 12-man field, Giuliani drew 30 percent support, followed by Arizona Senator John McCain with 17 percent, former Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson with 15 percent, and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich -- who has not announced a run -- with nine percent each.
Giuliani does startlingly well among ``moralist'' voters who are heavy church-goers and disapprove of abortion and gay marriage, pulling more than 20 percent support among that group, Fabrizio said. ``That presents a huge problem for someone trying to be the consensus conservative and take him on,'' he said. Further, 60 percent of GOP voters said they could vote for a candidate even if they disagreed with his position on abortion, suggesting the issue is not a campaign-killer for Giuliani,
Fabrizio warned that the voter support is soft; 74 percent of those polled said they could still change their minds, and some may already have done so, given the fact that the polling was completed in May, Fabrizio said.
But the survey by Fabrizio, McLaughlin & Associates -- called The Elephant Looks in the Mirror Ten Years Later, a follow-up to a similar study conducted a decade ago -- foreshadows some troubles for the GOP presidential nominee next year.
The party --once divided into about five general ideological camps -- is now splintered into seven categories, including pro-war ``Bush Hawks,'' anti-immigration ``Fortress America'' Republicans, family values-oriented ``Heartland Republicans,'' moderate ``Government Knows Best'' voters, ``Free Marketeers,'' ``Moralists,'' and fend-for-yourself ``Dennis Miller Republicans.''
Those voter segments largely see themselves as Ronald Reagan Republicans, with 71 percent defining themselves as such (just 16 percent called themselves ``George Bush Republicans''). They in general want smaller government, an end to illegal immigration and a balanced budget. They also agree that the war in Iraq was the right thing to do.
But the GOP voter camps disagree on issues such as health care, global warming, defense spending and gays serving in the military. Slightly more than half believe universal health care should be a ``guaranteed right of every American,'' with 43 percent believing citizens are not entitled to health care. Some 49 percent believe gays should serve in the military, with 42 percent disapproving of the idea. On global warming, GOP voters are divided about whether the government is doing too much, not enough, or about what it should be doing to address the threat from climate change.
More than a third of GOP voters want an immediate or scheduled withdrawal of troops from Iraq, a trend Fabrizio said is likely only to grow over the next year unless the situation in Iraq improves dramatically. Nearly all of the GOP presidential contenders have rejected a timetable for withdrawal.
Overwhelmingly, GOP voters said they would not consider casting a vote for New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who recently changed his party identification from Republican to Independent. But the 17 percent who said they would consider supporting Bloomberg should give the GOP pause, Fabrizio said.
After the losses in the 2006 congressional campaigns, ``we can't afford to lose any part of our base,'' he said.