NY-GOV: Why Giuliani Probably Won't Run

New York Democrats are increasingly nervous about running on the ballot with Gov. David Paterson, according to the New York Times. That's not surprising, ...
by | August 12, 2009

New York Democrats are increasingly nervous about running on the ballot with Gov. David Paterson, according to the New York Times. That's not surprising, given Paterson's approval numbers. But, their biggest fear strikes me as misplaced. From the New York Times article:

The biggest fear is that Mr. Paterson presents such an enticing target that he will encourage a challenge from a prominent Republican, like former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, who could galvanize the party and give Republican voters a reason to be enthusiastic about the race.

I doubt that Giuliani actually is going to run. The problem he faces is that Paterson is so unpopular that he isn't actually that enticing of a target.

The dynamic right now in New York is that Paterson keeps saying he's running for governor and yet no one actually believes him. How can he possibly win with an approval rating in the twenties?

That dynamic actually puts Giuliani in a very awkward position. Obviously, he'd be a heavy favorite against Paterson. But he has no assurance that Paterson actually will be the Democratic candidate.

Unless something dramatic changes, Attorney General Andrew Cuomo would pummel Paterson in a Democratic primary. If Cuomo is the nominee instead, Giuliani will be the underdog. Coming off of a disastrous presidential bid, I doubt Giuliani is interested in adding another losing race to his legacy.

As a result, what we're likely to see -- and in fact already seeing -- is a comedy of indecision. Giuliani won't declare that he is running until he knows Cuomo isn't running. To avoid intraparty unpleasantness, Cuomo won't declare whether he is running until Paterson says he isn't running. Yet Paterson keeps saying he is running because, hey, who knows, things might turn around for him.

What Giuliani really needs is for Paterson to say he is running and for it to be obvious that he really means it and Cuomo to say he's not running and for it be obvious he really means it. The trouble is that no one ever believes a politician with a bad approval rating who says he's running (people even talk about Jon Corzine not actually running and his election is three months away) and rarely does anyone believe a politician with a great approval rating who says he isn't running.

Giuliani is already facing pressure to make up his mind soon, to give other Republicans a chance to build support. He also has already given a vague timetable for his decision: "by this fall." Unless somehow it is clear that Cuomo won't be the Democratic nominee by then, I'm betting that Giuliani takes a pass.

Josh Goodman
Josh Goodman  |  Former Staff Writer
mailbox@governing.com

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