No Giuliani in '12; could this be the end?

In this Sept. 6, 2011 file photo, former

In this Sept. 6, 2011 file photo, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani speaks at the National Press Club in Washington. (Credit: AP)

Beyond delivering its share of national news, Rudy Giuliani's visit Tuesday to Nassau County, where he grew up, may be viewed one day as a poignant personal milestone.

Most observers already expected New York City's world-famous ex-mayor to skip a 2012 presidential run. But before Long Island Association luncheon guests, Giuliani finally said out loud that it was too late to join the fray.

Wisely, he's never been known to rule out future possibilities. But you might wonder if this moment also confirms an end to his storied political career.

The 2008 Rudy-for-president campaign ran aground despite impressive early polling. In 2010, the one-time Republican rock star -- still commanding wide respect in the GOP -- passed up prominent pleas to help his party by running for U.S. Senate or governor from his home state.

This year, talk of him for vice president, by his own account, seems a long shot. A Republican who wins the White House in 2012 would presumably seek another term in 2016. By then, the former New York City mayor will be 72 and out of public office for 15 years.

But to the suggestion that Hizzoner's future will be firmly fixed in the private sector, a longtime Giuliani loyalist cautions: "Let's see what happens. There are those of us who hope that's not the case, who would like to see him back in government at some point. But that will have to wait. Now's the time to make sure someone can beat Obama."

Whatever may be in store for "America's mayor," Mitt Romney's star seemed to rise on the eve of Tuesday night's Republican debate. Just as Giuliani was making news at the Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury, New Jersey's Republican Gov. Chris Christie -- who bowed out of the big contest last week -- took to the airwaves in New Hampshire to endorse the former Massachusetts governor.

Christie called Romney "the man we need to lead America." Unlike Christie, who described the endorsement as an easy decision, others have been less than supportive.

Over the summer, Sarah Palin was hammering away at Romney on several fronts -- including health care -- before she declared herself a noncandidate.

Late last month, former New York Gov. George Pataki said, "America is in a crisis, and none of the current candidates or the president has leveled with the American public about what needs to be done to rescue our future." Pataki was then urging Christie to run.

Giuliani so far offers analysis but no endorsement. He says Texas Gov. Rick Perry represents the heart of the party and Romney the head -- reflecting the view of some state Republicans who say privately they wish they could graft together the best of both.

Giuliani loyalists also haven't forgotten that Perry was the only sitting governor to endorse the former mayor in 2008 and tried to help him during the last push in Florida.

Also that year, Giuliani -- responding to Romney's attacks on his immigration policies as mayor -- said: "It's unfortunate, but Mitt criticizes people in a situation in which he's had by far the worst record. . . . There was even a sanctuary mansion. At his own home, illegal immigrants were being employed." Romney called the remarks "offensive" and asked rhetorically whether Giuliani would check everyone's papers if they were employed by a firm hired to work on his home.

All this would presumably be considered water under the bridge if at some point Giuliani sees fit to back Romney. But this White House contest is still taking shape, and the ex-mayor is not the kind to commit too soon.