As 'favorite son' of Republicans Rudy Giuliani in 2007 drew early and firm support for his ill-fated presidential bid from state GOP chairman Joseph Mondello and from Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno.

The alliance made sense. Giuliani, at the top of a national ticket, would drive the tide that lifted local boats. He'd turn out voters who also would choose to keep the state Senate in Republican hands.

But Sen. John McCain became the Republican nominee and was defeated while the New York Republicans lost the state Senate, if barely.

McCain's state chairman was Ed Cox, who in recent days has declared enough support from GOP county leaders to succeed Mondello as state party chairman.

Now - despite Cox's clear upper hand - Mondello, Giuliani's camp and Bruno are declaring for Niagara County's Henry Wojtaszek for chairman. Wojtaszek, while popular among his peers, seems to have started too late, perhaps because he was waiting for Mondello to bow out of running for another two-year term.

The situation led some Cox backers to express befuddlement. "I'm very surprised at Giuliani's timing," said Assemb. Phil Boyle (R-Bay Shore), who was among the Suffolk partisans announcing support for Cox last week in Medford. "He's going with someone else after Cox won. The next thing you know, he'll switch from being a Yankees fan to a Mets fan."

The Cox camp was making calls Tuesday to ensure that their commitments of support from around the state were firm. Some in the Giuliani camp denied any issues with Cox, but cite a loyalty to Wojtaszek.

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Added another Cox backer, who asked not to be identified: "If Rudy was telling people he will be a candidate for governor, it would be viewed as more meaningful. But I don't think people are seeing that, though I think the dysfunction in Albany is so prominently displayed that Rudy could get in. It would be analogous to his cleanup crew in New York City in 1993."

Giuliani, always an advocate of preparation, is said by friends to have been looking long and hard at the powers of the governorship to see if he would have a true chance to succeed at "fixing" the capital (once the rationale of another ex-prosecutor, Democrat Eliot Spitzer).

The New York City charter gives mayors clear and sweeping powers over municipal government. The governorship is a different kind of position, with success more dependent on the legislature. Giuliani recently made his interest known in a constitutional convention.

Other Republican activists have made their interest known in having a candidate and a ticket well in advance of next year's election cycle. Former Rep. Rick Lazio has been pursuing the job. Others talk up Chris Collins, the Erie County executive.

Both major parties are forming theories around their rivals' behavior. If Giuliani jumps in, does Attorney General Andrew Cuomo face Gov. David A. Paterson in a Democrat primary? Would Giuliani defer if Cuomo is assured of the nomination? Could Lazio beat Paterson?

Talking to Newsday's Reid Epstein, Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) said of Giuliani: "He makes an awful lot of money. To end up running around 62 counties in New York and dealing with the case of characters in the blood sport of New York State politics, I don't know if he wants to or not."