WASHINGTON — Rudy Giuliani limped out of Michigan with a sixth-place ribbon, trailing never-beens Ron Paul and Fred Thompson. Again. It marked a new low for America’s Mayor, whose presidential prospects once seemed so bright that he could skip the Iowa straw poll without fear and attack Hillary Clinton with the authority of a presumptive nominee. Ironically, however, Republicans in Michigan may also have paved the way for Giuliani's rebirth.
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Meet the GOP's next could-be "Comeback Kid," the frontrunner-turned-also-ran whose bid to build a Florida firewall -- once revered, then reviled -- looks today like a pretty smart gamble. Just last weekend, Giuliani was on the bubble for future TV debates. Now he's bubbling back up into contention.
That gamble’s paying off because Republicans, after two weeks and three major elections, are voting according to his plan, more divided than at any point in almost 30 years. Mitt Romney talks about winning "silvers" and "golds" (cue the 2002 Olympics soundtrack), but this race increasingly resembles the Special Olympics, where, yes, everyone can be a winner. The latest piece of Giuliani's chaos strategy to fall into place was Romney's strong win in Michigan, which gave the GOP field yet another front-runner and, more importantly, stalled John McCain. McCain, whose campaign is fueled not by money but post-New Hampshire momentum, is the only Republican with enough of a national base to muck up Giuliani's strategy.
But wait, you say. We've been down this road before. We've anointed more front-runners in this race than there are candidates. So what can Giuliani do between now and the Jan. 29 primary in Florida to guarantee he's cresting on Super Tuesday? With the help of the industrious Matt Berger, the NBC News/National Journal embed tracking Giuliani, I offer a few key suggestions:
Is he up to the challenge? We'll soon know.
Copyright 2012 by National Journal Group Inc.