Okay, Rudy has finally ended the tease.

That means I have to hit the program key on my computer that says, Yes, he's popular, but wait until those Republican primary voters find out he's pro-gay rights, pro-choice on abortion and pro-gun control!

The question is whether 2008 is a very different kind of year, and Giuliani is a very different kind of candidate.

He is, after all, one of the heroes of 9/11. And he did demonstrate that the ungovernable city of New York could in fact be governed. He ticked off a lot of people in the process, and waged a very messy war with his now ex-wife, but his accomplishments are undeniable.

Every once in awhile, a political figure comes along who is so innately appealing that many voters are willing to put aside the fact that they disagree with him on a number of issues. John McCain had some of that in 2000 as plenty of Democrats swooned over him. So maybe the CW is wrong and GOP voters would be willing to overlook Giuliani's social-issue sins.

Of course, Giuliani shares something in common with McCain, and that is strong support for the Iraq war. Yes, he didn't vote for the war--Rudy was out of office and making lots of money by then anyway--but he's been a staunch supporter. With more Republican officeholders turning against the war effort--when they're not filibustering, that is--I wonder if that will be a popular position a year from now.

I never thought a New York mayor of either party could be elected president, because the city's tribal politics is so much different than the rest of the country. But there's always a first time. Could we get the Rudy-Hillary showdown we were denied in the 2000 Senate race?

The NYT{vbar}http://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/06/us/politics/06rudy.html?hp&ex=1170738000&en=f06a701eedaaa248&ei=5094&partner=homepage doesn't sound too excited:

"Compared with his top rivals in 2008 at this point, Senator John McCain of Arizona and former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, Mr. Giuliani has moved more slowly to hire staff members and build a state-by-state political organization."

But the New York Post{vbar}http://www.nypost.com/seven/02062007/news/nationalnews/runnin_mates_judi_n_rudy_aim_for_08_nationalnews_stephanie_gaskell_and_kate_sheehy.htm finds a more personal angle:

"Sexy Judi Giuliani is keeping a tight lip-lock on her hubby as he moved even closer yesterday to officially announcing his presidential bid.

As his loyal missus bared some of the secrets of her marriage to 'America's Mayor' in a candid new interview, Giuliani had his eyes on another prize."

The former Judith Nathan tells Harper's Bazaar: "What people don't know is that Rudy's a very, very romantic guy. We love watching 'Sleepless in Seattle.' Can you imagine my big testosterone-factor husband doing that?"

Power Line's Paul Mirengoff{vbar}http://powerlineblog.com/archives/016677.php says Rudy is the front-runner:

"Many believe that Giuliani will fade as his positions on social issues become better known, and that's certainly possible. Indeed, a year ago I would have said it's probable and two years ago, almost certain. One might guess that the issues as to which conservatives have problems with Giuliani are more fundamental, and thus more problematic, than the gripes that plague McCain. But from what I hear, it seems to be the other way around."

Josh Marshall{vbar}http://www.talkingpointsmemo.com/archives/012292.php can't believe Dick Morris is arguing that the GOP has a remarkable openness to Giuliani:

"Let's be frank. On most or all of these issues, Giuliani is to the left of a good number of Democrats outside the northeast and the west coast.

"Basically, for social conservatives, Giuliani is way on the wrong side of every signature, litmus issue. But there's a 'remarkable openness.' How about remarkably desparate? They just don't have anybody in this race at the moment that's catching any kind of fire in the nomination process and has any chance in a general."

Fred Barneshttp://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/013/234ukdvi.asp{vbar}http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/013/234ukdvi.asp believes that (gasp) Hillary could win:

"Senator Hillary Clinton waging two presidential campaigns at once. She is running for the Democratic presidential nomination while keeping a sharp eye on the general election campaign against the Republican presidential nominee, whoever that turns out to be. Senator Clinton wants to run as a centrist, not a liberal, in the general election. But there's a problem. She is being tugged to the left in the nomination fight, forced to take positions that may jeopardize her chances later against the Republican candidate.

"Her opponents in the Democratic primaries next year don't have this problem. They are unabashed liberals who have done nothing to place themselves near the ideological center of American politics. Clinton, however, spent her first term as senator from New York downplaying her image as a staunch liberal. Instead, she has sought with some success to fashion a reputation as a centrist on some several key issues, particularly national security. And while doing so, she became the undisputed frontrunner for the 2008 Democratic nomination. She became electable.

"A glance at the breakdown of red and blue states in the 2004 presidential race shows how little it would take for her to win the general election. If she holds the states won by Democrat John Kerry, she would need to add only one populous red state or two smaller ones. And there are numerous Republican states that have drifted toward the Democrats since 2004--Ohio, Colorado, Iowa, Montana, Nevada, Arizona, and Virginia, just to name a few."

Washington Monthly's Kevin Drum http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/archives/individual/2007_02/010686.php{vbar}http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/archives/individual/2007_02/010686.php thinks an all-Noo Yawk final wouldn't be close:

"I don't think it's surprising at all that Hillary Clinton trounced Rudy Giuliani in a recent poll in New York state. It's sort of the flipside of my earlier argument about Hillary being stronger than many people think.

"In Hillary's case, my argument is that there are a lot of people who have vague, negative impressions of her from the 90s, and that these people are going to be pleasantly surprised when they see her for the first time in years and she turns out not to be a fire-breathing dragon after all. Maybe it's the soft bigotry of low expectations, but it's real nonetheless. She has nowhere to go but up.

"Giuliani is just the opposite. The average voter has vague, positive impressions of Rudy thanks to his 9/11 heroics, and these people are going to be unpleasantly surprised when they see him for the first time in years and he turns out to be nastier than they remember (not to mention being freighted down by a closet full of skeletons they didn't know about). He has nowhere to go but down."

I stumbled across the following post at the Politico:

"Frankly I have no respect for Rudi since he wimped out of the 2000 Senate race with Hittlery. Plus he's bald and Americans don't elect bald Presidents."

My reaction: 1) This person can't spell. 2) Rudy didn't wimp out, he was battling cancer. 3) I could do without the Nazi reference. 4) I wonder if he may be onto something with the hair-challenged part.

Well, that didn't take long. There's already a demand for one candidate to get out of the race. Take it away, Jonathan Chaithttp http://www.tnr.com/doc.mhtml?i=w070205&s=chait020507#grafm@rkr#{vbar}http://www.tnr.com/doc.mhtml?i=w070205&s=chait020507

"I'm not saying Biden shouldn't be president. I have tons of respect for him, and I think he'd do a terrific job if he could get it. I just find it amusing that he thinks there's some chance he could actually become president. It's a case study of that bizarre mental affliction that strikes so many senators. They see younger, less-experienced Senate colleagues--who are far less esteemed than they are--running for president, and they're offended. If the 100 senators were the only ones who could vote, Biden would probably beat Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. Unfortunately for Biden, that's not how it works . . .

"In addition to his uncontrollable verbosity, Biden is a gaffe machine."

That would get us down to, what, 29 candidates?

It's not just politics. The Chicago Tribune Web site asks today: "Should Rex Stay?" Rex Grossman takes the Bears to the Super Bowl, and this is the thanks he gets?

Even Obama's church{vbar}http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/chi-0702060164feb06,1,7889544.story?coll=chi-newsnationworld-hed is becoming an issue:

"Conservative critics already have begun a buzz on the Internet about a far less known part of his biography: his adherence to the creed of the prominent South Side church he attends, Trinity United Church of Christ," the Chicago Tribune reports. "The congregation posits what it terms a Black Value System, including calls to be 'soldiers for black freedom' and a 'disavowal of the pursuit of middleclassness.'

"In an interview late Monday, Obama said it was important to understand the document as a whole rather than highlight individual tenets. 'Commitment to God, black community, commitment to the black family, the black work ethic, self-discipline and self-respect,' he said. 'Those are values that the conservative movement in particular has suggested are necessary for black advancement. So I would be puzzled that they would object or quibble with the bulk of a document that basically espouses profoundly conservative values of self-reliance and self-help.' "

I love the Obama Messiah Watch http://www.slate.com/id/2159132/.{vbar}http://www.slate.com/id/2159132/. AP wins this time:

"Obama analyzed and integrated Einstein's theory of relativity, the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, as well as the concept of curved space as an alternative to gravity, for a [Harvard] Law Review article that [Prof. Laurence] Tribe wrote titled, 'The Curvature of Constitutional Space."

What does the United States Senate do when confronted with the greatest issue of our time? Squabble.

"Republicans blocked the Senate from delivering a politically embarrassing rebuke of President Bush's Iraq policy Monday in a maneuver that could have implications for the conduct of the war and for next year's elections," says USA Today{vbar}http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/2007-02-06-iraq-resolution_x.htm.

"Both parties immediately moved to gain political advantage from the impasse.

"Democrats said Republicans are trying to muzzle growing public opposition to the war in Iraq . . . Republicans accused Democrats of trying to unfairly limit the debate on Iraq by refusing to agree on certain ground rules."

This astronaut love triangle http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/orl-bk-nasaastronaut0507feb05,0,5811210.story?coll=la-home-headlines{vbar}http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/orl-bk-nasaastronaut0507feb05,0,5811210.story?coll=la-home-headlines sends me into orbit:

"A NASA astronaut is charged with attacking her rival for another astronaut's attention early Monday at Orlando International Airport, the Orlando Sentinel has learned.

"Lisa Marie Nowak drove from Texas to meet the 1 a.m. flight of a younger woman who had also been seeing the male astronaut Nowak pined for, according to Orlando police.

"Nowak -- who was a mission specialist on a Discovery launch last summer -- was wearing a trench coat and wig and had a knife, BB pistol, rubber tubing and plastic bags, reports show. Once U.S. Air Force Capt. Colleen Shipman arrived, Nowak followed her to the airport's Blue Lot for long-term parking, tried to get into Shipman's car and doused her with pepper spray, according to reports."

Wearing a wig? This woman does not have the Right Stuff.