Rudy to jump into 2012 nomination race?

Why not?  In the wake of high-profile demurrals from Haley Barbour, Mike Huckabee, and Mitch Daniels, the Republican race could use more strength in executive experience.  But will the 2008 experience handicap Rudy Giuliani more than his 9/11 experience helps him?

Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, whose presidential campaign fizzled in 2008, is leaning toward another race for the White House, according to a close associate.  New York Republican Rep. Peter King, who has known Giuliani for more than 40 years, says the former mayor “is very close to saying he’s going to run.”

“If he were to make the decision today, he would run,” says King.

Speaking at a dinner with reporters in Washington, King, who was an enthusiastic Giuliani supporter in 2008, said the former mayor has been quietly lining up support and exploring strategy. Giuliani has also examined the mistakes his campaign made in ’08, when he did not seriously compete in a contest until the Florida primary, by which time he was hopelessly behind in the race.

Giuliani was an early polling favorite in the 2007-8 primary cycle, routinely scoring near the top of the heap.  Unfortunately, Giuliani tried out a strategy that had been nothing but theory before that cycle, which was the idea that a serious candidate could bypass Iowa and New Hampshire and focus on delegate-rich Florida to vault to the top.  Giuliani proved that poor showings in earlier small states really do matter, which will prevent anyone from trying that strategy again.

Giuliani’s a sharp man who will do things differently a second time around.  But will that make a difference?  As much as I like Giuliani as an executive — and there is a lot to like — he’s going to have more problems this time in exciting the base.  Giuliani probably won’t be competitive in Iowa, so he’d have to focus on New Hampshire and hope for a first- or second-place finish there.  That would be bad news for Mitt Romney if it happened, since that is Romney’s back yard.  Giuliani would need to score well in South Carolina, where social conservatives get most of the support, or in Florida.  Even assuming a second-place finish in New Hampshire and a win in Florida, Rudy would still have a long road ahead of him.

Plus, this is a different GOP than in 2008.  The Tea Party has changed the ground, and I’m not sure how well Giuliani will fit within the new dynamic.  He’s not exactly a Beltway insider in the way Newt Gingrich is, but he’s not exactly an outsider either, especially after his run for the nomination last cycle.  The Tea Party wants fresh blood at the top, which is one of the problems Romney has to face.  He’s hoping for the outside-the-Tea Party vote, and if Giuliani splits that, then neither can succeed. Also, with national security taking a back seat to economic concerns, Rudy’s biggest issues are neutered.

Unless Giuliani finds more traction with the grassroots and less with the big money, I’d guess that 2012 primary voters are going to consider him less relevant to their aims.