With photographs of Michael Bloomberg, John McCain and Al Gore staring down from the bookshelf in his midtown office, Ed Cox sat and explained why he thinks that he, and not Rudy Giuliani, has the support of the Republican Party base in New York.
“His problem is he’s saying, ‘I want so-and-so as a chair,’ and he’s not saying, ‘And I want to run for governor,’” said Cox in an interview last week about his bid for the state Republican Party chairmanship. “It’s something he’s put off time and time again.”
“So, there’s a lot of skepticism in the base as to whether he is really serious about running for governor. And so, they’re saying, ‘Unless you’re serious about running for governor, then you don’t have your choice of chair. And even there, we’re not sure.’”.
Cox also said, deliberately, that if Giuliani were to run, and win, he would be closing the door on a presidential race in 2012.
“Look,” said Cox. “You pledge to the people of New York you’re going to serve as governor for tough times—remember, he said that, at the Crain’s event, that New York is really in bad shape, like New York City was, they need someone like me ’cause I can really turn things around, then I’ll do it. So, in that situation, after pledging that, and the people of New York State electing you to turn the state around, how could you then turn around and start running for president right after you’ve been elected? You can’t do that.”
Cox’s main rival, Henry Wojtaszek, is the chairman from Niagra County, and has the support of Giuliani, George Pataki, outgoing chairman Joe Mondello and former Representative Tom Reynolds.
In the course of the interview, Cox did his best to remain positive about the opposition to his candidacy being fueled in an increasingly conspicuous way, by the former mayor—who Cox worked against, on behalf of John McCain, in last year’s presidential primary—as well as the former governor and other notable Republicans. He cast it as a sign of his “independence” and said that he’d work cooperatively with activists in the party, who, he said, were dictated to under Pataki and ignored by Giuliani.
In response to solicitations by Giuliani aides canvassing for potential Wojtaszek supporters, Cox said, chairmen who are supporting him “gave some pretty strong messages back as to what they wanted and why they were doing what they were doing, in supporting someone who would be independent, who would not be beholden to any candidate and would work in the best interest of the party in putting forward a friend, not someone who made him the chair.”
In the party’s reduced circumstances, Cox said, the chairs simply won’t stand for a pliant new leader to replace the ineffective old one.
“Suddenly, there’s an outlet for their position,” said Cox. “And they said now we can have a real Republican Party that stands for Republican principles that’s going to be independent, strong, and select the right candidates. Given that vision, someone comes up and says, ‘I got my friend here. I want my friend here,’ and someone comes in and says, ‘I want someone who is loyal to me because I might do something in the future.’ They are going to express their point of view.
“You can only hit your head against a brick wall so many times, and [Giuliani's] people and Henry have hit their heads against brick walls. So, this is a brief little episode, as were the other little episodes with people trying to challenge what the base of the party is doing here. This train is moving and it’s just going to keep moving and there really hasn’t been any impact, except in the press, obviously, because of the kind of celebrity interest and all that.”