Rudy Giuliani for Senate? He'd make a big race bigger.

Rudy Giuliani, former New York mayor and a Republican, is said to be weighing a Senate bid. Will his mayoral credentials help or hurt him?

Patrick Andrade/Reuters/File
Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani speaks at the United Nations in New York September 24.

The US Senate is full of mavericks: John McCain, Joe Lieberman, Bernie Sanders. So, why not add one more: Rudy Giuliani?

Mr. Giuliani, the former mayor of the Big Apple and a Republican, is reported to be close to declaring himself a candidate to be the junior senator from New York.

If the feisty Giuliani decides to run, the national spotlight will shift to the state the same way it did when Hillary Rodham Clinton decided to run for US Senate from New York. A Giuliani candidacy would be sure to generate massive fundraising from both sides – the Democrats desperate to hold onto a seat currently held by their own Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and the Republicans smelling another way to chip away at the Obama advantage.

“This race is big because it’s New York and bigger because it’s Rudy,” says John Zogby of the Zogby International polling firm in Utica, N.Y.

Giuliani is best known for helping to pull New York through the shock of the attacks on the World Trade Center on 9/11. Almost every night he was on the national news, telling the world the city was tough, would survive, and could use their help. Soon after 9/11, he was termed “America’s mayor.”

But Giuliani would also have to dust off his campaign shoes. The last time he was elected to office – the mayor of New York – was 1997. In 2000, he started to run against Mrs. Clinton for the US Senate seat here but withdrew for medical reasons. Then, in 2006, Guiliani started a presidential campaign that made major mistakes: He skipped campaigning in Iowa and hardly campaigned in New Hampshire and South Carolina. He dropped out of the race.

A race now would not be a "cakewalk" for the former mayor, says Mr. Zogby, whose firm will be polling this weekend on Giuliani's prospects in a campaign. Democrats hold a plurality in the state of New York, and Senator Gillibrand is sure to be pressing the Obama administration for more money for stimulus projects where she can give a check to a mayor. In fact, four of her last five press releases had to do with federal money going to help some upstate community or to expand a military base. “And I’m not so sure Rudy is so magical in upstate New York,” says Zogby.

The upstate vote is crucial for Republican candidates; it usually represents half of GOP primary votes. It’s not clear, moreover, if Giuliani will be the only Republican on the ballot. Three-time Gov. George Pataki (R)is reported to be thinking about running for the nomination. Zogby says Mr. Pataki would have the support of the party brass. But, he adds, “No one ever talks about the Pataki years or drives past the Pataki Bridge. There is no sense a dent was made.”

If Giuliani were to win the GOP primary, he would face Gillibrand. In early polling about a head-to-head matchup, the Marist Institute has found Giuliani winning 54 percent to 40 percent.

It would be "a very unusual situation: The challenger is better known than the incumbent,” says Lee Miringoff, director of polling at Marist in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.

But Giuliani would have to overcome some issues that the Gillibrand campaign would be sure to bring up (assuming she wins the Democratic nomination). For example, Bernard Kerick, Giuliani's former police commissioner, received a jail sentence for lying to the US government when he was nominated to run the Department of Homeland Security. Guiliani had pressed the Bush administration to nominate Mr. Kerick.

Giuliani would also have to reassure Republican voters on issues such as gun control, abortion, gay rights, and his personal life. He would have to convince voters that he has the temperament to work with other politicians in passing legislation, analysts say. And he would no doubt be asked about his presidential aspirations.

That might be the least of his concerns, since Clinton ran for president after New Yorkers elected her to the Senate.

“New Yorkers don’t seem to mind if someone is thinking about running for president,” says Mr. Miringoff. “That’s why Broadway and all its lights are in New York.”


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