Giuliani Sees an Opening in 2012 Field

Is Rudy 2.0 Ready to Install? Smiles Mask Transatlantic Tensions; Bibi’s Buddies in Congress Undercut Obama Land Plan; Senate Dems Love Mediscare

Giuliani Trial Balloon Floats Higher

"[Giuliani] is very close to saying he's going to run."

-- Rep. Pete King, R-N.Y., quoted by The Washington Examiner, speaking at a dinner with reporters.

The loftiest trial balloon yet from Rudy Giuliani’s camp was hoisted up on Monday night by Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., who told reporters that the former New York mayor and 2008 candidate was leaning toward mounting a run.

A 2008 Giuliani aide told Power Play that key members of the old team are “staying loose” in anticipation of a potential run. He said the exploration seemed to have entered “a different phase” and that Giuliani had grown increasingly serious as the Republican field took shape.

“You can’t look at the Republican field and say that there isn’t room,” the former aide said.

King, a longtime ally of Giuliani and a former surrogate on terrorism and security issues, floated the Rudy run at a Washington media dinner hosted by conservative magazine the American Spectator. It’s the latest and greatest sign from a slow-developing effort from Giuliani’s inner circle.

In a speech to a Republican lawyers’ group earlier this month, Giuliani made it clear he was considering the possibility but wanted to see who else got into the race. He had previously taken a “not closing the door” line, but the rhetoric has lately taken a turn toward interest rather than non-resistance.

With the field taking shape after Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniel’s departure, a path may be opening up for Giuliani, who went from front-runner to fizzle in 2008 after embracing a risky late-primary strategy which focused mostly on Florida, while basically bypassing key early voting contests in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

If Giuliani does opt in, it would be something of a blow to all of the already-declared candidates as donors and supporters sympathetic to his candidacy keep their checkbooks closed and their minds open. At a time when Tim Pawlenty is getting his second look from GOP tastemakers, it is not helpful to have mainstream Republicans wondering whether Rudy 2.0 has a chance.

The biggest risk is for Mitt Romney, who is already fending off a quasi-campaign by fellow moderate Mormon Jon Huntsman. Giuliani would be competing for many of the same voters as Romney, both geographically and ideologically. The two 2008 candidates and their organizations have kept alive their primary feud with sparring 2010 endorsements and Romney even trying to block Giuliani from running for New York governor with an early endorsement of failed primary candidate Rick Lazio.

Giuliani would have to prove to donors and voters that he had learned his lesson from 2008 and would be engaged early and often in the fight for early votes. Working in his favor is his 2008 convention speech in which he bashed Barack Obama for voting “present” so often in the Illinois Legislature.

Obama-Cameron Photo Op Belies Strains

"The military tempo has been increased in recent weeks and in recent days. That increased tempo will continue."

-- British Foreign Secretary William Hague briefing reporters about the Libyan civil war.

President Obama will today have a meeting in London with British Prime Minister David Cameron and the two are out with an op-ed today touting the importance of the “special relationship” between the two countries and their steadfast commitment to seeing reform in the Middle East.

But the public displays of transatlantic affection are necessary because of underlying strains. Obama has been slow to embrace the more aggressive approach by the Brits and their fellow Europeans in Libya while Cameron has been stepping up the British withdrawal from Afghanistan ahead of the slow reductions envisioned by his American counterpart.

As Hillary Clinton pointed out Monday, America is flying a quarter of the attack missions in Libya and providing the support apparatus for the entire operation. While the president has stressed the “non-kinetic” aspect of U.S. involvement in the war, Clinton, one of the strongest proponents of the war, made it clear that the U.S. was indispensable in the increasingly aggressive campaign to topple Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi and his fellow tribesmen in favor of a coalition of rival tribes and Islamists.

But as Obama is looking to downplay the levels of kinesis in the war in order to quiet congressional grumblings about a lack of authorization for the months-old American involvement, the Europeans are getting more kinetic than ever in the stalemated civil war. (Remember the president saying the American mission would be measured in “days, not weeks?) NATO is preparing to add helicopter gunships to the effort in order to root out entrenched pro-Qaddafi forces.

The close-quarters combat is a risky move but seen as necessary as Europeans grow increasingly desperate to kill Qaddafi fearing a long-term oil disruption, an influx of refugees and a spate of terror attacks if he and his tribes remain entrenched in their part of the nation. But NATO lacks the airpower to do the job.

In Afghanistan, Britain is the only reliable ally when it comes to killing the enemy. While other NATO members provide support and training for the woebegotten Afghan security forces, only the Brits have a trigger-pulling contingent sufficient to help the U.S. clear and hold contested areas. But Cameron, in the midst of an austerity push and facing stiff public opposition to the decade-long campaign, is making ready for withdrawal.

With the costs of Obama’s nation-building strategy in Afghanistan continuing to mount, the departure of a key ally means more strains on forces in the field and appropriators at home.

Bibi Gets Warmer Reception on the Hill than at the White House

“A fair beginning to good-faith talks also means the Palestinians cannot simply stop by the negotiating table on their way to the United Nations, where they seek recognition that is at once purely symbolic and dangerously counterproductive. And a fair beginning to good-faith talks means that Israel cannot be asked to agree to confines that would compromise its own security.”

-- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid speaking at the America Israel Public Affairs Committee. He called President Obama’s plan for Israeli concessions “premature.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will today address the members of Congress after two days of members of Congress coming to address him at AIPAC’s annual meeting.

The message from Democrats and Republicans alike is that President Obama’s proposal for Israel to make an opening concession of land in order to woo the Palestinians back to the negotiating table has little support in Washington.

Majority Leader Harry Reid undercut Obama, just as House Majority Whip Steny Hoyer did last week. House Speaker John Boehner let fly with a throaty defense of Israel’s right to self-defense and ripped any appeasement of the Palestinians, who have recently welcomed terror group Hamas back into their government.

The blowback from Obama’s speech calling for Israel to give up land in order to gain credibility with an international community poised to acknowledge the Palestinians claim of nationhood has been intense. While Obama might have expected the lecture he got from Netanyahu at the White House, he didn’t seem to expect the discomfort his plan would cause across the political spectrum.

Netanyahu’s point has already been made, which allows him to deliver some grace notes in his speech to a joint session of Congress. He is wrapping up a trip secure in the knowledge that despite the fraught relationship with Obama, he has many friends in Washington.

Senate Dems Have One Budget Plan So Far: Stick it to GOP

“This issue will have staying power and be a defining issue in 2012,"

-- Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., talking to the Wall Street Journal about Paul Ryan’s budget.

Senate Democrats are looking to pick up a weapon in their grueling effort to retain control of the upper chamber in the 2012 elections by forcing a doomed vote on the House budget blueprint.

Senate Republicans are not eager to cast votes on a plan that has proven effective in clobbering GOP candidates with older voters. Democrats are excited about the strategy that they believe will deliver a special election victory for them today in a three-way race in the traditionally Republican 26th District of New York.

But Republicans have also seen the self-inflicted wounds of Newt Gingrich who may have scuttled his presidential run by trashing the Ryan plan as “radical” and “right-wing social engineering.”

The more politic response to the plan, which calls for converting Medicare into a privatized insurance program, is the one from Tim Pawlenty, who praises the Ryan plan but makes clear that he will have his own strategy to rescue the foundering entitlement program.

The first two Senate Republicans to publicly oppose voting for the Ryan plan are a moderate Republican, Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown, and a conservative, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul. Brown thinks the plan too tough and Paul thinks the plan not tough enough.

It could be a sign of things to come, since these two trendsetters may give cover to their ideological allies who don’t want to make a politically costly stance. A no vote offered with praise for Ryan may be the formal for many in the Senate. It would be hard for the Ryan team to complain too much about no votes on doomed legislation, especially if offered in conjunction with good words about the author.

Senate Republicans are particularly upset that Democrats are making this political play even before they have developed a budget plan of their own. With the Senate Democrats at loggerheads over a 2012 budget and a plan to boost the nation’s $14.3 trillion debt limit, it seems churlish to Republicans for the majority party to engage in a blatant 2012 Election ploy.

And Now, A Word From Charles

“[Herman Cain] said earlier -- in your debate – that he wasn't sure what he thought about Afghanistan. We're in a major war. If you want to be commander in chief you’d better get a good idea and not say I'll get advisors around me. I know it makes me a cocktail-sipping, establishment elitist even to say that, but it's the truth.”

-- Charles Krauthammer on “Special Report with Bret Baier.”