This past week, Rudy Giuliani continued his flirtation with another presidential run with a limited schedule of appearances in New Hampshire. The former New York City mayor hasn’t decided whether he wants to try again for the Republican nomination, but his interest is obvious. While we’ve noted before his chances of winning in 2012 are practically non-existent, if, as reports indicate, a Giuliani run would be focused primarily on trying to win in the Granite State, the consequences of such an effort might be serious for frontrunner Mitt Romney.
While everyone in Giuliani’s camp swears he has learned the lessons of his disastrous run four years ago, the notion the GOP is ready to nominate a pro-abortion, pro-gun control candidate is farcical. Even if Giuliani runs on his fine fiscal record as mayor rather than on his strong stands on foreign policy and terrorism as he did then, there is even less reason to believe he could now win. But the ability of Democrats and independents to vote in the New Hampshire primary does increase his chances at least in that state. Which is bad news for Mitt Romney, the man who believes his centrist approach and status as former governor of neighboring Massachusetts puts New Hampshire in the bag.
Giuliani hasn’t a prayer of doing much damage outside of a state like New Hampshire, but he could draw votes from Romney as well as crowding out the already dim hopes of Jon Huntsman. If he does, that could potentially open the door for somebody else, such as Michele Bachmann or Rick Perry, to either win or finish a close second in a state that nobody expects either to win. A crowded field that split the votes of moderate Republicans and the crossover voters could give an opening to a conservative who might otherwise never have prevailed. New Hampshire is designed to go to someone like Romney, and anything short of a big victory there would be a blow to the frontrunner. Since Romney is likely to lose in Iowa, the caucus state that precedes New Hampshire, such an outcome would not only deflate the notion he is the inevitable nominee but quickly put his well-funded candidacy on life support.
The 2008 Republican race was a serious of unlikely and unusual events that led to the victory of John McCain, a man few thought could possibly win in late 2007. This time around, the late entry of candidates such as Perry or Sarah Palin could throw everyone’s calculations for a loop. Perry’s entrance might cause Giuliani to stay out, while a Palin run could seriously damage Michele Bachmann even if the former Alaska governor’s chances of winning the nomination are probably not much better than that of Giuliani.
We don’t know who will be the beneficiary of a Giuliani candidacy, but we do know Mitt Romney would be hurt the most by it.