Is Giuliani a national candidate or a regional one?

A couple of weeks ago, there was a theory floating around, perhaps started by Jonathan Martin at NRO and a couple of others, that Rudy Giuliani might not contest Iowa or New Hampshire. Now, since then, we have heard that Rudy is, indeed, staffing up in Iowa and New Hampshire. But does that make him a real candidate who could compete nationwide?

Here’s another theory. I’m not going to stand by it, but it is an option. Perhaps Rudy can’t break out of the Northeast plus West Coast. If Rudy is on the ballot in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, he almost certainly wins those primaries. New York and Connecticut are varieties of winner-take-all. That is, if you get the most votes, you get all the delegates (NY had 102 and CT 30 in 2004). Throw in Pennsylvania (75 delegates) and Maryland (39), whose soon-to-be-former Governor seems to like Rudy. The upshot is that Rudy, even in the worst case, could probably come into the convention with 200 or more delegates.

Now that’s not enough to win. But those votes come out of someone’s hide. Could he deny someone (say McCain?) enough votes to win the nomination outright? Then he could cut a deal (say, with Romney) to be Vice President. And as a candidate for Vice President, his suspected baggage can’t really damage him, or the ticket, much. And it sets him up to be President, if he has just a little bit more patience.

For this strategy to work, Giuliani would be a third candidate who would deprive the first-tier candidate of a majority, while the second-tier candidate fights on and comes a relatively close second. Sounds plausible in this environment.