Rick Perry’s ace in the hole: Rudy Giuliani

at 12:42 PM ET, 07/19/2011

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani continues to mull the possibility of a 2012 presidential bid, but his true power in the race may come if he decides against running and instead throws his support to Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

The two men are good friends, and Perry was the only Republican governor in the country to endorse Giuliani’s presidential campaign in 2008. Payback could benefit Perry on a number of fronts – most notably fundraising – and would likely strengthen his status as a top-tier candidate if he decides to run.

“Rudy would be an awesome asset to any campaign,” said Perry’s longtime political svengali Dave Carney. “Of course candidates matter to voters, but folks of the mayor’s stature bring lot of value added to any effort.”

And, Giuliani himself has had kind words for a Perry bid, telling CNN’s Candy Crowley on Sunday that the Texas governor has “probably one of the strongest records of any governor in America,” even while noting that he has yet to make up his mind about running himself.

Giuliani, according to those close to him, is still looking very seriously at a run for president and had publicly said he will run if he believes no one in the current field can beat President Obama.

Read one way, Giuliani could well be signaling that he will run if Perry doesn’t. Perry is expected to make a decision within weeks and has sounded increasingly optimistic about a bid of late. Giuliani has said he will make his mind up by Labor Day.

Regardless of whether Giuliani is sending Perry public winks and/or nods about his plans, it’s very hard to see how the former New York City mayor wins a Republican primary for president.

In the 2008 campaign, Giuliani struggled to find a state where his generally moderate stances on social issues fit neatly with the electorate. He skipped Iowa, pulled out of New Hampshire, largely ignored South Carolina and then watched as the race moved on without him in Florida. As such, there has been little interest in his deliberations about whether to run this time.

If anything, the Republican primary electorate has grown more conservative over the last three-plus years, with the rise of the tea party movement. While Giuliani seems to believe his fiscal credentials as mayor would appeal to that crowd, he seems to overlook the fact that most tea party supporters are not only fiscally conservative but also socially conservative.

And, while Giuliani does retain some significant support in New Hampshire – the second state to vote in the 2012 nominating contest – former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney is a much clearer favorite in the Granite State this time around than Arizona Sen. John McCain was in 2008.

If Giuliani were to pass on what would be a decidedly long-shot bid for president, however, he could bring much to the table as a Perry endorser.

First and most importantly, Giuliani has deep connections in the New York City Republican money world.

While Giuliani’s 2008 campaign was broadly disappointing, one thing he did well was raise money. Giuliani raised nearly $66 million for his 2008 campaign, despite the fact that he never won a single primary or caucus.

One of Perry’s major hurdles, according to those familiar with his deliberations, is whether he can raise the sort of money he would need to run competitive campaigns in each of the early states.

Perry has never had to raise money under federal contribution limits — $2,500 for the primary and $2,500 for the general election is all any single donor can give — and would have to change his model of finding a handful of major donors who can write huge checks to one centered around big bundlers who can collect hundreds of smaller checks.

His fundraising base in Texas gives Perry a foothold in one of the most donor-rich states in the country. With Giuliani making introductions for him in New York City, Perry would almost certainly have the financial foundation he would need to make a credible run – particularly given some of the less-than-inspiring sums reported over the past three months by his would-be rivals for the nomination.

Less obvious, but perhaps no less important, for Perry’s chances of winning the Republican nomination is the boost that a Giuliani endorsement would give him on the national security front.

In a field led by former governors and a three-term House member, there is precious little national security experience in the race. Perry’s own resume lacks any significant track record on that front either – unless you include his work to secure the state’s southern border from illegal immigrants.

Giuliani is still a national hero within Republican circles for his handling of the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Giuliani telling GOP primary voters that Perry is the candidate in the race who can best protect America and keep us safe would be a powerful – and likely persuasive – factor in what is an incredibly wide-open race.

Of course, a Giuliani endorsement wouldn’t be an unalloyed good thing for Perry. His Republican rivals would likely seize on some of Giuliani’s more moderate positions and try to make Perry answerable for them. (It’s worth noting that Perry’s endorsement of Giuliani in 2008 already makes that possible, to a degree.)

But, for the fundraising piece alone, Perry would take a Giuliani endorsement without thinking twice.

The question is whether the former mayor is still struck with the idea of being president or whether pragmatism will win the day and he will stay on the sidelines to help his self-described “good friend” pursue the dream.

 
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