Rudy Giuliani for president (again)?
For months, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s name has drifted in the periphery of the 2012 Republican presidential race, something more than a pipe dream but short of a full-fledged candidacy.
That all may change soon, according to New York Rep. Pete King. King said at a dinner with reporters that Giuliani is “very close to saying he’s going to run”, adding: “If he were to make the decision today, he would run.”
One Giuliani adviser, who was granted anonymity to speak candidly, confirmed that the former mayor is “seriously considering it but not actively pursuing it”.
The reason why? “He is worried that no one in the field can beat President Obama,” said the source. “He would consider supporting someone he felt would be a good president and could beat Obama. He doesn’t see that right now.”
While Giuliani is clearly taking a hard look at running, it’s difficult to see how he could overcome the problems that afflicted his 2008 presidential bid — in which he began as a frontrunner but failed to win a single primary or caucus before dropping from the race.
“I don’t really see an opening for him,” said Kieran Mahoney, a New York-based Republican consultant. “He had his shot and missed.”
In fact, Giuliani’s path to the 2012 nomination would likely be more difficult than the one he faced three years ago.
* Giuliani is still a moderate but the GOP primary electorate has taken an even stronger turn toward its conservative roots in recent years — as evidenced by the victories of tea party candidates in Senate primaries across the country in 2010.
* Much of the sheen of Giuliani as “America’s Mayor” has worn off as September 11, 2001 is further and further in our collective rear view mirror. Giuliani’s 2008 campaign was also widely regarded in the political world as a disappointment, which means there would likely be far less institutional support — read campaign cash — for him this time around.
* The nominating calendar in 2012 will likely be nearly identical to the one that governed the 2008 process. In the last race, Giuliani began with the idea of winning New Hampshire but abandoned that to focus on Florida. By the time the Sunshine State voted, however, the race had moved well beyond him.
In conversations with former Giuliani advisers, the consensus is that Hizzoner’s only chance at relevance in the 2012 race would be a laser-like focus on New Hampshire where his fiscal conservatism and regional ties make for a potentially appealing package.
“He’d be the best communicator of the current crowd running,” said one former Giuliani adviser. “But the only shot I see for him is an ‘all in’ New Hampshire play and even then I think it’s a stretch.”
New poll numbers out of New Hampshire affirm the hill Giuliani would have to climb. Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney led the way with 32 percent followed by Texas Rep. Ron Paul at nine percent. Giuliani and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich each took six percent in the poll, which was conducted by CNN and WMUR.
While Giuliani’s vote share is good for a third place tie, he is running roughly even with the likes of former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty (four percent) and former Utah governor Jon Huntsman Jr. (four percent) — both of whom remain relatively unknown quantities for New Hampshire voters and are already building staffs and fundraising operations. Giuliani, on the other hand, has near-universal name identification among Granite State primary voters and has done little to put together any sort of political team.
John McLaughlin, a New York-based Republican pollster, argued that Giuliani’s consideration of the 2012 presidential race actually hearkens back to his experience in mayoral races.
McLaughlin noted that Giuliani lost to David Dinkins in the 1989 New York City mayor’s race as the Democrat was able to successfully seize the political middle. But, Giuliani came back four year later to win after Dinkins’ first term hit the skids.
That storyline could mimic the political trajectory of President Obama, explained McLaughlin. “With high unemployment, jobs leaving America, high taxes, wasteful spending, and in spite of killing Bin Laden, Americans feeling less secure, for Rudy it must feel like ‘deja vu all over again,’” he said.
Maybe. But extrapolating from a mayoral race in New York City to a presidential race is a dangerous exercise. (Apologies to everyone in New York City who thinks the mayoral election is a bigger deal than a presidential race. You know you’re out there.)
And, whether or not Giuliani is an electable candidate in a general election against President Obama, he still would need to find a way to win the Republican nomination.
Given his struggles in doing just that in 2008 and the rightward movement of the Republican electorate since then, Giuliani seems like a long shot candidate for the 2012 nod even if he does decide to run.