Giuliani, who gained worldwide fame for directing the city's response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, is the only Republican with statewide appeal and the ability to raise large sums, experts said Tuesday. His candidacy would be a tonic for the GOP, hoping to seize a toehold in state government after losing the State Senate last year.
But experts also said Democrats, particularly supporters of Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, could use the specter of Giuliani living in the Executive Mansion to force Gov. David A. Paterson to withdraw. Democrats want someone who would have a better chance of beating the former mayor.
Despite dismal poll numbers, Paterson so far has vowed to seek election in 2010.
Intention is unclear
Whether Giuliani enters the fray is uncertain. People familiar with his thinking are divided. Some said he was considering a gubernatorial bid, while others said Giuliani had allowed his name to be floated to boost his businesses.
Giuliani, 65, declined to comment Tuesday. But earlier this month, he said, "If I thought I could make a difference in the state, really change things and it needed me, then I probably would do it."
Giuliani aide Maria Comella said Tuesday a decision could come by "the end of the year."
The former mayor represents Republicans' best shot at retaking the governor's office. "After Rudy what do the Republicans have?" said Douglas Muzzio, a political scientist at Baruch College/CUNY. "They don't have a bench. They don't even have Triple AAA players; they have a couple of Double AA players."
He and others said Giuliani would energize GOP voters enough to produce the high turnout the party would need to recapture the state Senate. The GOP is fixated on that chamber because whoever controls the legislature in 2011-12 will redraw legislative districts for the next decade.
Doubts he will do it
"The fact that people are talking about [Giuliani] for governor helps his business . . . But he's not going to run if Cuomo does because then the race is much harder," said Klein, a Republican committeeman in Dix Hills.
Giuliani not only makes fees from speaking engagements, but has a Texas-based law firm, Bracewell & Giuliani, and a consulting firm, Giuliani Partners.
A recent Siena Research Institute Poll found Cuomo might defeat Giuliani, 53 percent to 40 percent while Giuliani might beat Paterson, 56-33.
Such numbers illustrate why some Democrats are clamoring for Paterson to step aside. A Giuliani candidacy "would increase their anxiety level," said Peter D. Salins, a political scientist at Stony Brook University and former Giuliani adviser.
Salins also said Giuliani would run a very different campaign from his 2008 bid for the White House. "He'll stress his success as mayor of New York and not just 9/11. He'll talk about crime being down, the economy and balanced budgets every year," Salins said.
Giuliani isn't a shoo-in despite his resume. Many have tried, but the last New York City mayor to become governor was De Witt Clinton in 1817. Klein said, "History isn't on [Giuliani's] side."