Politics

Giuliani for president? He won’t say, but adviser gives former mayor a boost

Neil Munro White House Correspondent

Mayor Rudy Giuliani is fundraising for GOP state candidates, but he has not raised any money for himself, nor has he hired any campaign staff, said Wayne Semprini, Giuliani’s New Hampshire state chairman in 2008.

Giuliani is back in the news because his friend and fellow New Yorker, Rep. Pete King, told reporters Monday night that the former mayor “is very close to saying he’s going to run” for president in 2012.

“Nothing has changed,” a Giuliani political adviser and New York consultant, Jake Menges, told TheDC. “The mayor is still seriously thinking about running [and] he has not made up his mind yet.”

“His ultimate objective is to defeat Barack Obama next year [and] if a candidate emerges that can do that, the mayor will support that candidates.” Menges said. “If not, he will seriously consider getting into the race.”

Semprini is a determined Giuliani booster, and pitched the mayor as soon as TheDC reached him in New Hampshire. “The nation is looking for a true, accomplished fiscal conservative, and there is no one — I mean no one — who can demonstrate accomplishments better than Rudy Giuliani when he was running New York City,” from 1994 to 2001, he said.

In 2007 and 2008, Giuliani flamed out after failing to gain traction in the early primaries in New Hampshire and Iowa, despite initial polls showing sympathy for him among social conservatives, and despite winning an endorsement from evangelical leader Pat Robertson. By the time that Giuliani’s campaign landed in Florida, he was dogged by scandal stories related to his third wife, Judith Nathan, his activities during his terms as N.Y. mayor and his post-mayoral consulting work. Sen. John McCain beat Gov. Mitt Romney for the top slot in Florida, and Giuliani came in third, with only 15 percent of the vote. The following day, Jan. 30, Giuliani left the race and endorsed McCain.

Giuliani is now working, traveling, and raising money in the United States for GOP candidates, Semprini said. He’s watching the nomination race, and has not endorsed any candidate, he said. Giuliani “is waiting to see who the best person is to take on Obama and to take on the country’s and the world’s problems,” he said.

Last year, Giuliani did three fund-raising trips in New Hampshire before the election, on behalf of GOP candidates. Since then, he’s made three more trips to raise money for GOP causes, and is slated to do another, Semprini said. In New Hampshire, “he’s been received incredibly well… its very obvious to me there’s a real thirst for a strong leader,” he said.

Giuliani can trump better-funded candidates, including Romney and Gov. Jon Huntsman, said Semprini, because “a consistent message, a consistent fiscal-conservative message, will trump money all day long.” That message also resonates among the many social conservatives who recognize that abortion issues are controlled by the Supreme Court, he said.

In the primary race, Giuliani wouldn’t need to win the support of most social conservative voters, partly because he’s likely have the backing of many social liberal Republicans. Giuliani can likely win those conservative voters because he was twice elected in New York with voters from liberal, libertarian, social-conservative and single-issue voters, said a Giuliani backer. Also, social-conservative issues may be supplanted by other issues more favorable to Giuliani. “A couple of months in politics is a very long time … we don’t know what the issues of the day are,” said the Giuliani backer. He’s also got better name recognition, which would allow him to catch up with other candidates if he enters the race late, he said.

But Huntsman has plenty of money, and is already competing against Romney for the votes of liberal Republicans in an election dominated by economic issues, not by the national security issues where Giuliani won his name recognition following the 9/11 attack. Also, both Romney and Gov. Tim Pawlenty are casting themselves as establishment candidates who can win the support of the GOP’s liberal and conservative primary voters.

Giuliani travels to New Hampshire next weekend for another fundraiser, said the Giuliani backer, adding that “there are no deadlines that he has to commit to in the near future if he wants to run.”