Bill Kristol: Two sources tell me Giuliani's running for president

Well, he is the frontrunner.

Actually, if you assume he’s not running to win, this isn’t all that crazy.

Rudy’s theory of the race: In the fall of 2007, he decided he couldn’t compete with both Mitt Romney and John McCain in New Hampshire, and disastrously decided to try to pull back there and pitch his tent in Florida. This year, he’ll commit everything to New Hampshire, where he thinks he has a good shot at beating Romney—whom he criticized there earlier this week. He then thinks he can beat whichever more socially conservative candidate(s) is left by winning what are still likely to be winner-take-all primaries in big states like California, New York, and New Jersey…

Isn’t his abysmal 2008 campaign a disqualifier? Rudy’s answer: Consider the New York parallel. Rudy lost to David Dinkins in 1989, making several unforced errors and running without a focused message. In 1993, as the streets of New York plunged into crisis, Rudy ran a disciplined campaign pledging to turn the city around. He won, and in a disciplined first term, he governed successfully.

So, despite widespread perceptions that he’s yesterday’s news, and notwithstanding the growing power of tea partiers in New Hampshire, he’s going to sweep into the state and somehow defeat Romney, Pawlenty, Huntsman and whichever grassroots favorite competes there in hopes that centrist candidates will split the RINO vote three or four ways? And then he’s somehow going to survive getting crushed in South Carolina by the Iowa winner and redeem himself by winning big in Florida? And then he’s going to win in all sorts of blue states, even though grassroots conservatives will unite behind whoever his social-con rival is in order to stop a pro-choicer like Rudy from getting nominated? It’s so crazy it just … might … work.

I’ll give you two slightly more plausible scenarios. One: Rudy’s convinced that Palin will jump in and win Iowa, thereby inducing a heart-stopping panic in establishment Republicans. In that case, whoever wins New Hampshire is all but guaranteed total Beltway GOP support in South Carolina and beyond. Giuliani himself has said before that he’s more likely to run if Palin gets in, so her bus tour may have him thinking along the lines I’ve described. If he can figure out a way to win NH and turn the primaries into a Rudy/Sarah death match, then, theoretically, conservatives who are worried about Palin’s electability might hold their noses and break for him. I think that scenario’s extremely unlikely, but there you go.

Two: More realistically, Rudy knows full well he can’t win but is unhappy that his star as a national figure has dimmed. He spoke at the convention in 2004; he ran for president in 2008. In 2012, he’ll be little more than a talking head who bowed out of politics with a famously inept campaign. Even his speaking fees have reportedly “dropped like a stone.” The surest way to get back on the national radar is to run for president and try to pull, say, 10 percent in New Hampshire. That’ll mean months of free media and, potentially, some value in a Giuliani endorsement for whoever ends up winning NH. If Rudy gets behind that person and heads out on the stump for him in Florida and elsewhere, it could position him to be named Attorney General or Director of National Intelligence if his candidate of choice ends up beating Obama. Still a longshot, but he doesn’t have many options left in national politics. Why not run a small but targeted campaign and try to parlay it into a cabinet position?

Update: New poll just breaking at Fox News: Romney 23, Giuliani 13, Palin 12. Hmmmmm.

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