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Political Action: By dropping out, Giuliani gave up shot at presidency

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani has recently announced he will not be running against appointed U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) in 2010. This came as a surprise to some political observers, since most major polls showed him far ahead of Gillibrand.

One poll showed him 14 points ahead among the state electorate. His action — or more accurately lack of action — seems to be establishing a pattern regarding his political career since 2000. At that time, he was the leading Republican candidate to run against then-U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton. He dropped out of the race, citing medical reasons. That led to then-U.S. Rep. Rick Lazio becoming the Republican nominee against Clinton. His campaign proved less than impressive with his losing the race by 12 points.

In 2006, the prospect at the time was that Giuliani might run against then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer, a Democrat. That office in 2006 was an open seat since former Gov. George Pataki, a Republican, had relinquished the office after serving three terms. Giuliani chose not to run and instead waited for 2008 and entered the Republican primaries for the presidency.

After an early high rating in the polls, he fell drastically and dropped out after only getting 15 percent of the Republican vote in the primary in Florida, a state in which he was initially expected to do well.

So as in 2000, 2006 and 2008, in 2009 he has given up. Ironically, he has endorsed Lazio for governor. Like Giuliani, Lazio has not served as an elected official since 2001, but unlike Giuliani, Lazio is low in poll ratings. It seems polls show him with less support than Gov. David Paterson. Giuliani had the name recognition and reputation for being a strong and decisive leader based on his tenure as mayor.

Most political predictions are forecasting 2010 as a favorable Republican year, especially with President Barack Obama continually dropping in the polls. It would have been an excellent time for Giuliani to run for statewide office. His announcement not to run should have been made six months ago rather than now, which in effect gives Republican state leaders less time to select another candidate to take Giuliani’s place.

There are those advisers around Giuliani who believe he can still run for the presidency in 2012. Their reasoning is that U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is out of the running and that he can win over former Govs. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, Michael Huckabee of Arkansas and Sarah Palin of Alaska— assuming they choose to compete for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012. The reality of the situation is that no New York City mayor has ever gone on to achieve the presidential nomination of their political parties.

Almost all of the American presidential candidates of the 20th century were, at the time they ran, either a vice president, state governor or U.S. senator. Giuliani has no such background. He has probably forfeited his last opportunity to gain that stature by not running for the U.S. Senate against Gillibrand. It appears the Giuliani era in terms of running for public office is over.

In the Democratic Party in Queens, insurgent Democrat Robert Schwartz is considering running in a Democratic primary for the state Senate in the 16th Senate District against incumbent state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone), which includes Whitestone and Flushing. He ran against her in 2008.

Although he did not win, he made a respectable showing getting about a third of the vote in the Democratic primary that year. He had Conservative Party support last year when he ran in a Democratic primary against Borough President Helen Marshall.

If he can obtain the Republican, Conservative and Independent parties’ endorsements for the 2010 fall general election against Stavisky, he might have a chance of winning. This is true if he can also retain enough of his Democratic Party votes in the primary election and these voters support him in the general election.

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