Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani’s talk-show cheerleading for George W. Bush may be getting tiresome, but it’s all part of GOP strategist Karl Rove’s master plan to get “America’s mayor” elected in 2008, we hear. But not to the Oval Office.

According to well-placed political sources, Giuliani has been working closely with Rove to build a Presidential platform against presumed Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton. “There’s been talk on Capitol Hill for months about Rove’s ‘secret meetings’ in New York with Giuliani,” says one D.C. operative. “[Rudy] is not appearing on Hardball and Larry King for his health.”

But sources say the job Rove has in mind for Giuliani isn’t the one the ever-ambitious ex-mayor is angling for; as usual, the Boy Genius has his own ideas. “Whoever gets the Republican nomination is going to appear so extremist that it will be hard for them to appeal to moderates, the core of winning any national election,” notes our insider. “But you add on an American hero like Rudy Giuliani and you have a likable ticket. Just prepare yourself for constant reels of Giuliani saving New York on September 11th.”

Painfully familiar with Rove’s machinations and mindful that Giuliani is likely too moderate to ever win the GOP’s blessing, Democratic strategists have taken to viewing him as a “secret weapon”—the kind of middle-of-the-road Republican (i.e. pro-choice and not anti-gay) who would look good in the VP slot next to a fire-breather like Bill Frist. Just don’t tell Rudy. Neither representatives for Rove nor Giuliani returned calls seeking comment by press time.