Thanks a Lot, Rudy

We won’t have Rudy Giuliani to kick around anymore. Well, that’s not entirely true. He’ll still pop up on the Sunday shows occasionally (and Fox News, too – of course) to calmly and rationally discuss his concerns about President Obama’s refusal to use the word “war” in every sentence. But as far as another Giuliani campaign for any office goes – well, that ship has now officially sailed.

We knew it was coming to this, too. There was a brief moment early this year when it seemed that David Paterson’s poll numbers would level off in the magic zone – strong enough to keep Andrew Cuomo on the sidelines but weak enough to make him a very vulnerable incumbent in a general election – that would make a Rudy-for-governor campaign possible, if not likely.

Instead, Paterson’s numbers freefell to lethal depths, where they’ve remained – cold and lifeless – for months now. One way or another, Cuomo will be the Democratic gubernatorial nominee next year – and, as Rudy has known all along, a campaign against Cuomo is a sure loser. Which is why the former mayor’s summer and fall flirtations with the governor’s race were so transparently hollow. The suspense wasn’t over whether he’d run – it was over when he’d finally get around to announcing that he wouldn’t.

That moment, it seemed, was about to arrive just before Thanksgiving, when the New York Times reported that Giuliani had decided to forgo a gubernatorial bid.

But Rudy wasn’t ready to end the guessing game. He was getting too much out of it. It was good for his ego, good for business, and good for his efforts to pay down his White House campaign debt. Plus, you’ve got to imagine, he was irked beyond belief that his old nemeses – those pointy-headed do-gooder liberals at the Times – were the ones pre-empting his timeline.

So, almost as soon as the Times story appeared online, Rudy’s camp threw another head-fake. He wasn’t running for governor in ’10, the line went – he was actually ready to run for the U.S. Senate against Kirsten Gillibrand, the appointed incumbent with lukewarm poll numbers. The Daily News bit – I mean really bit – and reported that he’d announce his candidacy “within 48 hours.”

That was 792 hours ago. And counting. It was almost instantly clear that Giuliani – the same guy who got cold feet at the starting line against Hilary Clinton – was simply trying to buy time.

Sure, the Senate race itself was an eerily good fit for him: the year would be right (the Republican label will be less damaging to candidate in New York in 2010 than in any year since 1994); the opponent would be beatable (polls showed him besting Gillibrand), and the G.O.P. was aching for a high-profile candidate for the top of its ticket. By agreeing to run, Rudy would be a hero to Republicans across the state.

But the idea of Rudy as a senator never made much sense. He’d be 66 at his swearing-in, a freshman member of the minority party with an enemy in the White House. Clout, in the traditional sense, would be elusive. And the chamber’s sluggish pace and the primacy of decorum would hardly suit his profane executive’s temperament. Sure, he’d be a star -Senate Republicans would be happy to make him their public face, especially on national security – but, really, can you imagine Senator Giuliani in the last seat of the Judiciary Committee, patiently waiting for Al Franken to finish his allotted time?

Some wondered if running for the Senate in 2010 would be a springboard for Rudy to another White House effort in 2012. That, too, was tough to swallow. For one thing, the turnaround would be too quick – the G.O.P. field will already mostly be in place by the fall of ’10. Numerous first-senators have run for president four years after their elections (Barack Obama in 2008, Bob Kerrey in 1992, Al Gore in 1988, to name a few) – but how many have run two years after winning their first term? It just doesn’t happen.

More to the point, we’re talking about the same man who in 2008 ran what is, statistically speaking, the most catastrophic presidential campaign in history – $57 million for one single convention delegate. Numerous candidates lose their first White House race and try again four years later – but all of them do so after running surprisingly well the first time. No one ever talked about John Connally or Phil Gramm running again.

Rudy actually provided a good indication of where his head is at a few weeks ago, when – while still officially considering his 2010 political options – he signed on as a security consultant for the 2016 Summer Olympics. It’s safe to say that he’ll make considerably more from than gig than he would as a U.S. senator – and that this matters to him.

So, except for those first few hours before Thanksgiving when we all wondered if the Daily News’ story could possibly be true, ther Rudy for Senate drama has been even less suspenseful than the gubernatorial edition. The only question has been when he’d finally admit he wasn’t running.

And today, at a midtown event with Rick Lazio (who once again will get to run the campaign Rudy passed on), he did that. In so doing, he leaves the state Republicans (if they were foolish enough to believe he was seriously interested in running for office next year) in a jam. With George Pataki almost certain to take a pass, the G.O.P. will lack a star in the two marquee races on next fall’s ballot – this in a year in which they could actually do well with the right slate.

But, since 2010 stood as his last chance to run for office, there is a silver lining for Republicans and for all of us: at least Rudy will never put us through this again.

  Thanks a Lot, Rudy