Is Giuliani Throwing Stones?

To get back in the race, Rudy Giuliani’s campaign is taking aim at his rivals’ stances on tax-cutting. As a Giuliani advisor told Mark Halperin’s absurdly-titled The Page

“We will continue to monitor the foodfight in New Hampshire between desperate candidates with do-or-die one-state strategies. As opportunities arise, we will be prepared.

Voters will tire of one candidate who opposed the Bush tax cuts attacking another candidate for voting against them. And this is just the beginning between two proven tax-raisers who will gladly point out each other’s dismal records on this issue of importance to New Hampshire voters.

As this goes on, voters will see Rudy is the only leader who has truly been tested in times of crisis and actually cut taxes and reduced real spending.”

Without choosing sides, the McCain campaign has an obvious and powerful rejoinder: when the United States government cuts taxes, the United States government can’t rattle the tin cup and expect, say, Paris or Beijing to make up the difference. (I mean, they sort of can and do, but you get my point.) New York city, in contrast, can and does demand increased transfers from Albany and Washington. Why did Rudy Giuliani endorse Mario Cuomo’s bid for reelection in 1994? Among other things, he sensibly concluded that Cuomo would be more likely to channel state largesse to the city.

Now, there are a lot of thorny issues here. For example, the five boroughs send slightly more to Albany than they get back. Slightly. The five boroughs plus Nassau, Suffolk, and Westchester send quite a bit more to Albany on net. So I certainly don’t object to New York city demanding “its fair share.” That’s to be expected. But all tax cuts and spending cuts, etc., need to be seen in this context. New York city’s fiscal policy doesn’t happen in a vacuum.

All this is to say that the Giuliani campaign is playing with fire: do they really want rival campaigns firing back with a detailed look at Giuliani’s aggressive lobbying for state and federal handouts? Whether or not it is fair to call these transfers “handouts,” how much do you want to be that this kind of attack would get results?

Personally, I think the Richelieu McCain-Giuliani scenario makes a lot of sense.

On the Saturday after the Iowa caucus, Rudy Giuliani drops out of the race and strongly endorses John McCain. McCain surges and wins New Hampshire. A national McCain surge accelerates. McCain campaigns with Rudy at his side, who is obviously the frontrunner now for vice president on a McCain/Giuliani security-and-competence ticket. In 24 hours Rudy goes from doomed to Superman. With McCain likely to only serve one term, Vice President Giuliani enters 2012 as the GOP frontrunner. You can argue a similar scenario for Romney, but the McCain scenario is more plausible. The two are friends, and McCain’s age makes him more likely to serve just one term.

Giuliani expects more from life than serving as a Super-Agnew, but there’s no denying that he’d be good at it.