While Tim Pawlenty struggles to get traction with votes in opinion polls, there’s a former candidate-turned-prospective candidate who’s already doing twice as well: Rudy Giuliani. The former New York City mayor fizzled fast in a 2008 campaign with a disastrous primary strategy, but the Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol is reporting that Giuliani will enter the race, perhaps soon.
In a sense, Giuliani fits a common Republican nominating pattern: He’s a candidate who’s run before and lost. However, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who believes it’s Giuliani’s “turn” the way it was Ronald Reagan’s in 1980, George H.W. Bush’s in 1988, Bob Dole’s in 1996 and John McCain’s in 2008. And, you’d be far more likely to hear, Mitt Romney’s in 2012.
In another sense, a Giuliani candidacy makes no sense: Since 9/11, he’s positioned himself as the tough-on-terrorism former NYC mayor, the same way he was the tough-on-crime former prosecutor before the terrorist attacks. Kristol’s report says the Giuliani camp has an explanation in hand:
Rudy’s message: I’m tough enough to put our fiscal house in order and to protect us from enemies abroad. The U.S. in 2012 is in bad shape — like New York in 1993. The budget crisis is as severe — and seemingly intractable — as the crime/welfare crisis was in New York then. Rudy dealt with that when people said it couldn’t be done. He’ll deal with this.
As for how Giuliani could overcome that wretched 2008 campaign, Kristol reports the strategy will be to focus on the New Hampshire voters he ignored back then — and to point out (to potential donors especially, I’m sure) that he’s bounced back before, winning the mayor’s race in 1993 after losing four years earlier.
I’d be more skeptical that such a plan could work if the field weren’t so muddled. But it is, as Kristol also notes, shaping up to be “an implausible year.”
Giuliani would match or surpass any of his competitors as far as executive experience and gravitas, i.e. looking and sounding presidential. And he would bring a different foreign-policy/national security element to the primary race. But would that be a good thing? Said element would associate him more closely — maybe too closely — with George W. Bush than any of the other candidates. Too soon? Too easy for President Obama to portray Giuliani as going back to the past?
Or would his track record as mayor convince voters that he has the fortitude to make tough decisions and follow through with them?
I wouldn’t bet on his getting the nomination. But then again, there aren’t very many candidates in this wide-open primary I’d bet against right now, either.
– By Kyle Wingfield