What Is Rudy's Game?

It would seem there’s no avoiding the scoop du jour served up by Bill Kristol at the Weekly Standard. Sources in the know claim that former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani is going to make another run at the Republican nomination for president, a bid which Kristol charitably describes as “implausible.” You likely wouldn’t have to search more than a handful of the usual conservative outlets to find other, less flattering adjectives being employed.


In no particular order, the questions immediately cropping up include:

  • Is Rudy “running – running” or is this all for show?
  • If he is running… why?
  • And could this actually work?

Taking these questions in reverse, describing this as a long shot would probably be giving him too much credit. But, as Hot Air’s Allahpundit points out — with tongue firmly planted in cheek — some of his supporters might see a hypothetical path to victory. First of all, if you root around a bit in recent archives you can find a poll or two showing Rudy with enough juice to be considered a frontrunner on the national level. Step two requires Sarah Palin getting into the race in a cycle chock full of somewhat unpredictable hopefuls, and her recent bus tour may have set Giuliani’s spider senses to tingling. He could be betting that the entrance of Palin — still widely viewed in establishment GOP circles as unelectable no matter how poorly Obama is doing — would send the powers that be into panic mode and force them to consider a more established, moderate alternative.

Absolutely nothing in this scenario explains what he plans to do about Mitt Romney, who is still quietly raising millions of dollars and clobbering everyone in the polls across the early primary states. Of course, that’s not the cornerstone of a Rudy nomination theory. The dream Giuliani is chasing is the same one that George Pataki and all the rest of the RINOs and NERPs (Northeast Republican Politicians) have tried to sell for some time now. It’s based on the fact that, in the modern era, the Democrats can not win a presidential election without both New York and California. That nearly 90 electoral votes is the anchor they start with, working from there to stitch together the rest of the 270 they need to cross the finish line.


If you remove either of those two legs from the Democratic scarecrow it collapses. So, in this fantasy world scenario we are constructing, if you could somehow nominate a Republican who could carry New York in the general election, the race is over before it begins. Forget about a fifty-state strategy. (Or, in Obama’s case, perhaps 57 states.) Forget a southern strategy, a western strategy, or a sweep of the early primary states. Giuliani could adopt a one-state strategy. Take New York in November and Obama is a one-term wonder.

Of course, this is a dream which has been pitched repeatedly to national GOP leaders. And each time it comes up, they smile, pat the NERPs on the head, and stroll out of the room chuckling quietly to themselves.

But to the other, perhaps more serious questions, what is Rudy really after? There is little doubt that he would very much like to be president, but every time I check in with political operatives out this way I get the distinct feeling that Giuliani is playing a different game. You see, much like his fellow Big Apple resident Donald Trump, Rudy has a lot of business interests going on. He gets involved in deals around the globe as well as charging lucrative speaking fees across the country. But when the bloom wore off the rose after his 2008 drubbing, it had an adverse effect on his fortunes.


Rudy may be far more in love with the idea of people talking about his running for president than investing much actual time, money, and energy into it. In his field of business, much as with Hollywood, almost all press is good press as long as they spell your name right. (And Giuliani isn’t that easy of a name for novices to type.)

The differences between “thinking about running” and actually doing it are fairly easy to spot. We’ll know Rudy is serious if he starts dipping into his own pocket, hiring some high-power campaign staff, and setting up functional operations in New Hampshire and Florida. (He can still write off Iowa and South Carolina, where he won’t even ring up a minor blip on the radar.) In the early going, he can rely on the perpetually bored cable news channels to pump up his national presence and he will no doubt be a ready and welcome guest on Fox and Friends, Morning Joe, and the usual roundup of Sunday morning shows. But that only takes you just so far without some foot soldiers on the ground doing the drudge work required to get a massive operation such as this in gear.

If we see signs of that by late July or August, I may start believing that Rudy Giuliani is serious about making another grab for the brass ring. Until then, though, I wouldn’t treat this rumor as much more than, “Donald Trump Part Two – The Sequel.”  Coming soon to an empty theater near you.


(Also see “Gingrich Campaign Staff Quitting Must Mean Perry is Running” on the Tatler.)


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