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Mccain-giuliani '08?

The Weekly Standard's Mike Murphy Richelieu spins out a fairly unconvincing (to me at least) scenario by which McCain captures the Republican nomination. But he does go on to raise one very intriguing possibility:

Rudy could be more than a mere spectator in all of this. Here is a farfetched but not impossible scenario you can use to wow your friends at cocktail parties: Rudy continues to drop in the polls. His campaign is indeed broke. The media continue to hammer him on ethics. He finishes a dismal fifth or even sixth in Iowa. Polls show him third or worse in New Hampshire. With his campaign broke and without money to run TV ads, Rudy faces a stark choice. He can either run and badly lose the next four contests - NH, MI, SC, NV - and then collapse in Florida. Or he can make huge brazen move to capture the entire race.

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.

Crazy? Sure. Rudy hates to quit. But he also has a big card to play, and if the next two weeks don't break his way, a very big move may not be so dumb after all.

This actually strikes me as less crazy that Richelieu's supposedly more plausible McCain scenario. First, Rudy doesn't hate to quit, as his aborted 2000 Senate run against Hillary proves. Second, he clearly likes McCain, saying during one debate that if he weren't running, he'd be supporting The Arizona Senator. But I guess the big question is: Does McCain like Rudy? And I think the answer may be no.

When I was up in New Hampshire with McCain a couple weeks ago, Rudy's name came up a few times while McCain was holding court for reporters in the back of his bus--and his words weren't very charitable. While McCain seemed to take every opportunity he could to say something nice about Huckabee and seemed at pains to hold his tongue when it came to Romney (lest he say something really, really mean), he had no qualms about taking some shots at Rudy.

Once, reading over a Giuliani campaign mailer that boasted that of Rudy's facing "bullies, dictators and terrorists with intelligence and strength," McCain asked us:

Which bully, which dictator, and which terrorist has he stood up to? 

Which, in turn, prompted some jokes about squeegee men from the assembled press. I'm pretty sure McCain laughed at a couple of them, but maybe he was just being polite.

And on more than one occasion McCain brought up Giuliani's lack of participation in--and eventual exit from--the Iraq Study Group. It's obviously a good anti-Rudy talking point--and McCain and Giuliani are fighting over the same voters in New Hampshire--but I definitely got the sense it was something deeper than that for McCain. When a reporter finally asked McCain why he seemed so bent out of shape about Rudy's ISG whiff, his answer was pretty direct:

We're in a war in Iraq. 

All of which is a long way of saying that, even if Rudy does do something crazy and drop out to support McCain, I'm not so sure McCain would return the favor by tapping him for the veep spot. That said, I do think Rudy would have a better shot at being McCain's number two than Romney, so he's got that going for him, which is nice.

--Jason Zengerle