I'm sitting here wracking my brains trying to figure out when Rudy Giuliani became such a slack bastard. Don't get me wrong - I've considered the man and his policies despicable since his time as mayor of New York City and the intervening years have not mellowed my opinion. Still, there at least seemed to be some fire in his belly, some vigor and drive. Granted, it was drive fueled by naked ambition and raw narcissism but it was drive nonetheless.
This lingering reputation as a hustler and street figher seems to be the main reason why pundits think his decision to abandon his run for governor of New York must be because he's set his sights higher. I'm not convinced. Even before Bernard Kerik's conviction, the rumor here in New York was that Rudy had lost interest in running for governor because he didn't want to deal with the state's wildly dysfunctional legistlature and rapidly deteriorating budget crisis. (That link is to an article in the New York Post, by the way, an outlet that under normal circumstances Giuliani couldrely on for a thorough tongue bath.) Rudy's no fool; he can see what dealing with California's unfolding disaster has done to Arnold Schwarzenegger's political future. But New York City was in pretty tough shape when Giuliani was first elected mayor, and he didn't seem to be cowed by that challenge.
It's possible that years of highly-paid political consulting work and accountability-free media appearances have softened the old boy up - or maybe be was never the pit bull the media makes him out to be. If he were to run for governor of New York he'd most likely be running against Andrew Cuomo, whose brand-name in New York is at least as strong as Giuliani's - and he also enjoys a pugilist's reputation. Giuliani might very well beat Cuomo but it would be a bloodbath. Kirsten Gillibrand is a much softer target. Charles Schumer, and old-school power-broker if there ever was one, is said to be educating her in the ways of the Senate and grooming her as a protege, but she hasn't yet made much of a name for herself in Washington. She's someone he could conceivably beat with name recognition alone.
Maybe Giuliani's always been about hitting the soft target. New York City's crime rate - Giulani's signature issue - was already dropping at the end of David Dinkins' term as mayor, but by that point Dinkins was remarkably unpopular and had a reputation as an ineffectual leader. In other words, he was an easy target for a tough talking media darling.
If he does decide to take on Gillibrand, even that election won't be the cakewalk for Giuliani, despite Fox New's inevitable attempts to tell you otherwise. It's worth remembering that Rudy came in a distant fourth in the 2008 New York presidential primary - pretty unimpressive for the hometown hero! Also, New York City voters recently awarded a third term to Michael Bloomberg even though he trampled the city's popular term limits law. Giuliani's suggestion that his term be extended in the wake of 9/11 was greeted with a resounding, "Um ... no, thanks." He's simply not a popular guy. On the other hand, if does decide to run for Senate, at least I'll have an excuse to revive this graphic: