Former New York City mayor and early 2008 Republican presidential frontrunner Rudy Giuliani is back in the spotlight during the current presidential campaign, acting as a Mitt Romney surrogate in Florida. Rumored to be working behind-the-scenes on a new Super PAC with Sheldon Adelson (and thus joining fellow Republican legends Karl Rove of Crossroads GPS and Dick Armey of FreedomWorks in the realm of conservative political organizing), Giuliani has been taking an increasingly public role in the Romney campaign.
His growing visibility makes sense given the issues at stake in this election, and raises an important question: Will Rudy Giuliani speak at this month's Republican National Convention in Tampa?
Giuliani spoke at Republican Party state headquarters in Tampa in late July, pumping up a crowd by calling Obama "anti-business, anti-profit."
Giuliani has been pitching his protégé Marco Rubio as "the most exciting" Romney vice-presidential candidate, and apparently he has enough pull in Romney-world that he can tell interviewers that Romney will pass immigration reform if elected president.
"I guarantee you that if we elect Mitt Romney, our economy next year will boom," said Giuliani.
During an April appearance on Fox and Friends, Giuliani defended Romney from charges that the former Massachusetts governor is not likable enough to win an election against President Obama. "When I had to be operated on for prostate cancer," Rudy said, "I didn't go to the nicest doctor. I went to the best doctor."
Giuliani's forthright manner and fiscal record both fit in with the recent tone of the Romney campaign.
In recent weeks, we've seen delightfully blunt East Coaster John Sununu straight-talk around the country as a Romney surrogate. We've heard Romney tell Harry Reid to "put up or shut up" about his tax returns. We've watched Romney tout his Bay State spending cuts and four straight balanced budgets (with an 85 percent Democratic legislature, no less) in a recent campaign ad.
As a proponent of "aggressive capitalism" and the first Republican mayor of New York since liberal John Lindsay, Giuliani may finally be an unequivocal messaging asset to national Republican efforts. Or to put it perhaps more accurately, the Republican establishment may have finally caught up to Rudy.
Properly decorated for his service to New York after 9/11 and long associated with his aggressive push to stop violent crime, Giuliani's fiscal conservatism has often been overlooked by conservatives who listen to his accent and deem him a RINO. But in the decade before George W. Bush doubled the size of the federal budget, Giuliani was pushing through the kind of policies in his city that conservatives ostensibly built their movement upon.
As he breathlessly recited in a Fox appearance in January -- in which he defended Romney's private equity career months before he was a Romney endorser -- Giuliani created 500,000 jobs during his mayoralty, cut unemployment in half (to 5 percent, one point lower than Romney has promised for America in his first term), and turned a $2.3 billion deficit into a surplus.
Did he tell moral conservatives last year to "stay out of people's bedrooms"? Sure. But he also thought the Bush tax cuts "didn't go far enough" and pointed out the logical companion to tax cuts, which Bush overlooked: "across-the-board spending cuts."
Like his buddy Newt Gingrich, he brought ideas to his losing presidential run -- like retiring 42 percent of federal employees over a decade to save $20 billion.
As he told Fox hosts when discussing his decision to lay off 12,000 "political hires" at the New York City Health and Hospital Corporation: "I was declared to be a monster, a slave driver, Hitler. I don't know, all the terrible things. But what did I do? I took a hospital, I got it to profitability."
He also made Times Square -- an eyesore under Beame, Koch, and Dinkins -- into a monument to profitability. American children knew it in the '90s as the set of MTV's TRL -- and its studios and megastores made it seem like the most exciting place in the world. The area around Washington Square Park? A similar eyesore until Giuliani made it a drug-free zone and berthed the corporate wonderland that is the modern NYU campus. (Meanwhile, Democrat Christine Quinn, presumed to be next in line for Giuliani's old job, just wrote a letter on official City Council letterhead telling NYU to evict traditional marriage-supporting Chic-fil-A from campus. Apparently "aggressive capitalism" is not for everyone.)
Yet, for all his conservatives triumphs, Giuliani ended up in the final tally a presidential also-ran, that most unappetizing of Convention speakers (fellow also-ran John McCain's reported Tampa snub, and the ensuing controversy around it, don't exactly bode well for Rudy's speaking chances).
2008 simply was not Rudy's year. His campaign manager Mike DuHaime famously bypassed Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina and targeted the Florida primary --erasing Rudy's name from the first rounds of media coverage and causing him a third-place finish in Florida on January 29. That Giuliani could run on a promise of tax reform and a record of 23 tax cuts and still not trust early primary voters to look past his pro-choice beliefs signaled either a massive strategy mistake on the part of his campaign or a frustrating reality of the Republican nominating process. At different times over the past four years, Giuliani has blamed both.
Even if he had won the nomination, the financial collapse in September --blamed on the white-collar folks from Rudy's own neck of the woods -- would have sunk him even more drastically than it did McCain. As Bill Clinton told Esquire, "on September 15, when Lehman Brothers failed, the race was over. The only presidential election in my lifetime I think that ended before the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November."
With his firm Giuliani Partners overlooking Times Square and his other firm Bracewell and Giuliani located on the 49th floor of a Sixth Avenue office tower near Bank of America, Rudy would have had a tough time stealing voters away from the "nicest doctor" in that race.
But 2012 is a much different election.
In May 2011, a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll found Giuliani leading the field of possible Republican candidates, ahead of Romney and Sarah Palin. America's mayor voiced his admiration for McCain's traditional 2008 primary strategy and set off for a week of events in New Hampshire. He installed a New Hampshire-based spokeswoman and earned the stated confidence of a former New Hampshire Republican chairman. Potential New Hampshire primary voters popped up in mainstream news articles calling him an "amazing gentleman."
The 2010 Tea Party Revolution -- in which Rudy played kingmaker for young icon Marco Rubio and first-time House winners Richard Hanna and Nan Hayworth, among others -- had seemingly done for the former mayor what the 1966 midterms did for Nixon. In opposition to an unpopular president, Rudy had set himself up for a comeback.
Of course, it was a comeback squashed by circumstance. When Rudy's friend Rick Perry entered the race on August 13, the Texas governor instantly took an 11-point lead over Romney in a Rasmussen poll. Florida Republicans were treating Perry like an inevitability as late as mid-September.
Giuliani gave up hope, dropping into the pool of running-mate candidates alongside fresher-faced East Coast dynamo (and confirmed convention speaker) Chris Christie. "I'm a realist, and I understand how the primary system works," Giuliani sighed.
But for all of Rudy's self-deprecation, the Republican primary process this year yielded a high-earning blue-state governor pitching what our president calls "top-down economics."
Faced with an opponent who doesn't think business owners built their own companies, Republicans may want to hand Rudy a microphone at their convention.
"People who live in freedom always prevail over people who live in oppression. That's the — that's the story of the Old Testament. That's the story of World War II and the cold war. That's the story of the firefighters and police officers and rescue workers who courageously saved thousands of lives on Sept. 11, 2001," Giuliani said in a moving speech at the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York.
No, Rudy Giuliani will never be president of the United States. But this year, he might still win in Florida.