Rudy redux: What's behind the Giuliani-for-President rumors?

Get ready for Rudymania! Or maybe not. His friend, Rep. Peter King, says Rudy Giuliani 'is very close' to running, but have his prospects improved at all since his campaign nosedived in '08?

Mary Knox Merrill / The Christian Science Monitor
Former New York City Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani speaks at the Republican National Convention at the Xcel Center in St. Paul, Minn., September 3, 2008.

Rudy Giuliani really might jump into the race for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination. That’s according to his friend Peter King, a GOP congressman who represents chunks of Long Island. Representative King told reporters on Monday that Mr. Giuliani “is very close to saying he’s going to run.”

So get ready for Rudymania!

This really shouldn’t come as a surprise. The man who was once known as America’s Mayor has been hinting about a reprise of his 2008 candidacy. Asked this month on NBC’s “Meet the Press” whether he was considering another run for the Oval Office, Giuliani said, “Yes I am.” In Australia, where’s he’s on a lecture tour, he reiterated Monday that his presidential options remain open.

Wow. Doesn’t the prospect of a Giuliani candidacy seem ... nostalgic? It’s like hearing the “Seinfeld” gang has reunited, or that Lindsay Lohan has signed with Disney to star in a “Parent Trap” sequel.

That his notional campaign is getting attention may be a reflection on the state of the GOP field. Now that Haley Barbour isn’t going to run, and Mitch Daniels has pulled out, and Chris Christie remains firmly in New Jersey, perhaps the Washington Republican establishment is getting worried that there are few party candidates with gravitas, or something like that. So the DC crowd keeps stirring up boomlets in an effort to get more people in the race.

But here’s a brave prediction – Giuliani won’t run. That’s because he still faces the same problems he ran into in the last go-round, when his candidacy cratered.

Giuliani is a moderate, given that he is pro-choice and squishy on immigration, by GOP standards. That does not necessarily play well in strait-laced Iowa, the caucus state that kicks off the voting season. He might do better in New Hampshire, but Mitt Romney has a house there, was governor in next-door Massachusetts, and campaigns in the state almost full-time, which would spell trouble for Rudy.

Giuliani’s security credentials might play well when the primary season moves to the South, but last time around Southerners didn’t flock to the guy with the Noo Youck accent. Rudy based his whole campaign on doing well in Florida, and when he placed third, he dropped out of the race and endorsed another relative moderate with good security chops – John McCain.

Remember, Giuliani was the early front-runner in the 2008 cycle. In May 2007 he led the field, as the choice of 27 percent of GOP voters. Yet the more he campaigned, the more his numbers dropped. From October of 2006 to January of 2008 his favorability rating went down 32 percent, according to Gallup data. In politics, when you’re famous, and have low favorables, you’re in trouble. It means people already think they know who you are, and you’ve got to change their minds.

He hasn’t been included in many polls this time around, so the numbers on his current standing are inconclusive. If he doesn’t get in, maybe King will run himself. Asked on MSNBC last week whether he’d consider a race, King smiled and noted that he had never expected to answer that question on national TV. “Hey listen, if something happens in the presidential race, I’ll decide at that time,” said the Long Island lawmaker.

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