The New York Daily News suggested Thursday that, according to one source, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani might use a run for Senate--if he wins--as a launching pad for taking another stab at the White House in 2012.
Giuliani's 2008 presidential campaign went down in flames, more or less, but he remains a nationally recognized figure with a respectable support base. So, in light of this speculation, why not engage in some more, and ask what a Giuliani presidential campaign in 2012 would look like?
If Giuliani entered a Republican primary field, it would, unavoidably, introduce a very significant element into the campaign: he would be the only Republican presidential candidate not running hard to the right.
As conservatives have mobilized this year against President Obama's economic agenda--and against Obama himself--there is a tremendous amount of fiscal-conservative energy within the right's ranks, with a strong movement to purge centrists from the GOP. And 2012 contenders know it: the conservative grassroots provide a source of energy that candidates want (and will want) to tap.
Nor do they want that conservative energy to turn against them: they've seen how conservatives have mobilized, nationally, to attack Gov. Charlie Crist (R) in Florida, and no one wants to become the Charlie Crist of the national political scene. Tea Partiers and Freedom Works activists will look to mobilize across the country in 2010 races, and that could prove a test run for conservative grassroots influence in 2012.
Hence, most candidates fear and respect the thus-untamed Tea Party hydra.
Giuliani, on the other hand, has already faced attacks from the right. He stood onstage with Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, and Fred Thompson at a GOP primary debate and explained that he's pro-choice. It's a hump he's already gotten over: conservatives know where Giuliani stands, and many of them know they don't like him. But the critical moment, for him, has passed.
In that regard, he would provide Republicans with what could be their only centrist alternative in 2012.
There's one notable exception, however: Newt Gingrich, who has pressed for pragmatic, centrist candidates to be embraced by the GOP.
Giuliani was a solid contender in 2008--at first. Before the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary drew closer, Giuliani carried roughly the same national weight as his two chief rivals of the early primary: John McCain and Mitt Romney.
What did him in, plain and simple, was his Florida strategy. Not running in Iowa or New Hampshire--while setting up shop in Florida, and putting all his eggs in that basket--essentially cost him his shot at the White House.
"My instincts originally were, if you lose, you gotta go down fighting. You can't allow yourself to lose a primary. I think I should've fought Iowa harder. That was the beginning of becoming irrelevant," Giuliani told New York Magazine in October of this year.
Running a second time around, that strategy would likely go out the window. While Giuliani said he should have run harder in Iowa, New Hampshire might prove a better fit, given that he's more recognizable in the Northeast.
But Giuliani knows how to run a national campaign. He's pro-business, and his talking points include slashing the New York City budget and incentivizing businesses to hire more workers through tax cuts.
It probably won't be Giuliani's season. Most of the energy on the right involves conservatism--and ideological conservatism at that. Giuliani's main selling point is his competence as a manager. That's not at a premium right now among conservatives--but you never know whether or not it will be in 2012, especially if the rest of President Obama's first term goes badly.
But with most of the candidates vying for the conservative mantel in 2012--vying harder than they did in 2008, when the maverick John McCain presented an opportunity for the GOP to gather moderate independent votes in the general election--Giuliani would be the odd man out.
It's impossible to say how likely that is, but it would, at least, be interesting to see.
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