The Rudy Giuliani who’s tip-toeing toward a run at the White House this month is very different from the one who dashed headlong into the fray in 2008. For one thing, Rudy is four years farther away from his signature achievement — leading the city of New York through 9/11 — than he was in ’08 (which was already pretty far). For another, he’s nobody’s frontrunner. In 2008, he was the man to beat, where today he’s lodged firmly in the Where Are They Now? file.
Yet Giuliani spent the last week or so trying to recapture the magic of four years ago. Or at least some of it. In a series of interviews, Giuliani’s hinted that he might run again, and laid out a strategy that would carve a path for the New York moderate that veers away from the hullabaloo of conservative politics and the likes of Sarah Palin.
Will it work? If the past is any evidence, no. Giuliani is not much of a major player anymore, and the tea-infused GOP isn’t much interested in hearing from blue state Republicans who know how to work across the aisle. Plus, Giuliani would face a field of powerful candidates who have been running for years already. Still, he seems convinced he could make a go of it, if he decides to throw his hat in the ring.Here’s a look at Giuliani’s baby steps through the door leading to the 2012 presidential race — his plans, his strategy and his nonstop hedging.
The If Factor
By now, political observers have become accustomed to longshot nominees staying in the spotlight by coyly suggesting a run at the White House. Giuliani may be doing the same thing, but his talk about a campaign seems more serious than that. Starting last week, he started rolling out hints at a presidential run that seemed to be building toward something.
“I will take a look at 2012. It’s really a question of can I play a useful role? Would I have a chance at getting the nomination?” he told CNBC’s Larry Kudlow on Jan. 20. “Those are the things that I’ll have to evaluate, you know, as the year goes along.”
That statement came as an answer to a question posed by Kudlow at the end of a long interview about mob busts. Nothing strange about asking a former candidate if he’ll run again, and nothing strange about that candidate never saying never. But the next day, on Jan. 21, came an interview in the National Review where Giuliani was reportedly “seriously considering a 2012 presidential run.”
“I’m like a running back that has the ball and I’m looking for openings,” he told the magazine.
Then came Giuliani’s surprisingly hyped interview on Piers Morgan Tonight, the CNN interview show that replaced Larry King Live. Giuliani shot the interview last week, though it aired Monday. But where National Review had the former Mayor of New York “seriously considering” a run, the interview on Morgan’s show had him all but announcing one, sort of.
Taken alone, each statement doesn’t stand out from the myriad coy interviews anyone who might be considered a presidential contender might give. But taken together, they suggest an organized roll out that could mean Giuliani is planning to make a formal announcement soon.
The Middle Man
Should Giuliani enter the presidential fray, he’s making it clear he won’t be spending a lot of time wooing his party’s angry fringe. While other Republicans bitten by the presidential bug are running as far to the right as they reasonably can, Giuliani’s hanging tough in the middle.
“My one chance, if I have a chance, is that I’m considered a moderate,” he told Morgan on CNN. Asked (of course) what he thought of taking on Sarah Palin’s, Giuliani said he relished the chance to run a different kind of campaign from the right-focused one his opponents will more than likely run in the primaries.
“The more Republicans in which I can show a contrast, probably the better chance, the better chance that I have,” he told CNN.
He said something similar to National Review, signaling that the entrance of many candidates into the race for the conservative primary electorate won’t stop Giuliani from taking a run at the moderates.
“A crowded [field] may be good, from my point of view,” he said.