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Rudy's Back! But Will He Run For Gov?

Rudy's Back! But Will He Run For Gov?

By Reid Wilson - July 25, 2008

Mike Huckabee ended his presidential campaign and took a job with Fox News. Mitt Romney finished his bid to become a top surrogate for the candidate he hopes may entrust him with the number two spot on the GOP ticket. Fred Thompson has been low-key since ending his bid, though he will join a post-election cruise sponsored by National Review that's headed to the Carribean. But last week, one former Republican presidential candidate emerged from his post-race cocoon, and it's got some in the GOP buzzing that Rudy Giuliani may not be politically finished just yet.

Giuliani last week launched a new political action committee aimed at keeping his state's Senate in Republican hands, a task that may prove elusive. That news could not come at a better time for the beleagured Empire State GOP, which clings to a 31-30 majority along with a single open seat that leans Republican. But aside from saving the state legislature, Giuliani's move is also being seen as a possible prelude to a run for governor.

It's not the only effort Giuliani has made to increase his national profile in the past week. From escorting John McCain to a ballgame at Yankee Stadium this week to appearing on MSNBC's "Hardball" to meeting with a rising crop of House Republican leaders creating a new fundraising program themselves, Giuliani has emerged once again into the public spotlight of late.

The New York Post reported last week that Giuliani would start the PAC this week, and will focus on helping the state Republican Party hold their narrow advantage in the Senate. Giuliani also held a fundraiser Monday for his federal PAC, Solutions America, in New York. "The idea is that Rudy's going to spend a lot of time on the road campaigning for John McCain and other national candidates," said Maria Comella, Giuliani's spokeswoman, who also suggested events with New York State Senate candidates could be a part of Giuliani's travel schedule.

The New York Republican Party can use all the help it can get at the moment. In a Congressional delegation that hasn't been majority-Republican since the 88th Congress, prior to the 1964 elections, Republicans now hold just six out of twenty-nine seats. Thanks to three open seats and a strong Democratic challenger, it is not unreasonable to think, in a worst-case scenario, that just two Republicans will hold seats in the delegation next year.

In the State Senate, the situation is more grave. Democrats have steadily added seats, targeting Republican members in increasingly urban areas and, slowly but surely, picking up valuable seats. The chamber is crucial to Democratic chances to control redistricting during the 2010 session, when the state is expected to lose two seats in Congress. If Democrats control both state legislative chambers and the governor's mansion, the party could conceivably redraw district boundaries to eliminate even more Republican members of Congress, consolidating their stranglehold on the state for perhaps a generation to come.

Of course, that scenario hinges not only on Democrats taking back the Senate, but on retaining the other two parts of the redistricting triumvirate. With a heavily Democratic Assembly unlikely to swing Republican barring a major political upheaval, the GOP's focus will be on the governor's mansion as the final bulwark.

And that's where Rudy Giuliani's involvement in Republican politics in the state gets interesting. As incumbent Governor David Paterson, who replaced the disgraced Eliot Spitzer earlier this year, begins to contemplate his own electoral prospects ahead of the 2010 election cycle, the Democrat faces less than stellar approval ratings. Just 48% rated Paterson's job performance as excellent or good, while 39% said he was doing a fair or poor job, according to a Siena College poll out earlier this month.

When asked who voters would prefer to serve as their next governor, Paterson came in third in a Quinnipiac University poll out last month as the choice of 23% of respondents, behind current New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, with 30%, and Giuliani, with 26%. That doesn't mean that Bloomberg, though, would be the front-runner. He trailed Giuliani by a wide 46%-26% margin among Republicans, though he led Giuliani by a 36%-28% margin among independents.

The Siena poll, conducted July 7-10, showed Giuliani handily beating Bloomberg in a Republican primary by a 61%-26% margin, though it also showed the one-time presidential hopeful trailing both Paterson and Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, who has been mentioned as another potential candidate, by seven and five points respectively.

Giuliani "is probably the only Republican that can win the mansion back," said one New York Republican campaign veteran who has not worked for the former mayor. In a general election, said the operative, Giuliani would poll "better than the average [Republican] in the City and could actually solidly win Long Island and the Northern [city] suburban counties."

Whether or not Giuliani wants to be governor remains an open question, according to multiple sources who were close political aides through his presidential run. "He has a lot of options," said one Giuliani insider. Comella, the Giuliani spokeswoman, would not speculate on Giuliani's future. "The only thing that Rudy's focused on is helping make sure his good friend John McCain is elected," she said.

Too, Giuliani is expected to spend some time on the trail raising cash for Congressional candidates. He met Thursday with Reps. Kevin McCarthy, Paul Ryan and Eric Cantor, three young Republicans who have started what they call the Young Guns program to target vulnerable Democrats, and Comella said Giuliani was finalizing plans for fundraisers with a number of other Republicans around the country. "Rudy's gotten a lot of requests on the Congressional side," she said. "It's going to be a bit of a balancing act in terms of best using his time."

Back in New York, the money Giuliani raises for Senate candidates this year could go a long way toward building goodwill for his own run for statewide office. This time, though, he will likely give away more of the money he raises than he doled out from his federal PAC. In 2007, Giuliani gave $20,000 to four members of Congress, including Reps. Vito Fossella and James Walsh, both retiring members from New York. This year, Solutions America has cut just one $1,000 check to a candidate, Senator Norm Coleman of Minnesota, according to the committee's latest filings with the FEC. Meanwhile, the committee has spent $273,000 on other expenses this year.

Giuliani will have to shell out a lot more than $21,000 to influence State Senate races this year. One special election held in early 2007, in a competitive district on Long Island, cost a total of $5 million between the parties. But if Giuliani influences even a few races and builds up chits with Republicans outside his base in New York City, he could find himself in strong position to become the only one-time White House candidate this year with an immediate political future.

Reid Wilson is an associate editor and writer for RealClearPolitics. He can be reached at reid@realclearpolitics.com

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