2008-02-07 / This Week's Attitude

This Week's Attitude

Ex-Mayor Bows Out After Rudy Awakening In Florida
By Neil S. Friedman

By Neil S. Friedman

After a distant third place finish in last week's Florida Republican presidential primary, Rudolph Giuliani bowed out of the GOP race the next day and endorsed John McCain. New York's native son withdrew before being completely embarrassed in Tuesday's primary, as state Republicans followed Giuliani's shift and gave their support to the front-running Arizona senator.

Giuliani was the latest GOP candidate to leave a congested field that once numbered 11 candidates and is now down to three, though most political observers and the media have already counted out fast-fading former Arkansas governor, Mike Huckabee.

No sooner did Giuliani withdraw after the Sunshine State debacle when it was rumored he drove off into the sunset of his political career, muttering to himself, "I'm still America's Mayor. I'm still America's Mayor."

His mumbling was interrupted when his cell phone rang.

"Hi, hon. Where are you?" his wife asked.

"Uh, er, I'm tryin' to figure how I lost the confidence of the American people, who loved me after September 11, so quickly."

"It's no big deal, you know how fickle people can be. Look at you and Bernie Kerik. Just come back to the hotel and we'll talk."

"My own son even abandoned me. Judi, Judi, Judi what am I gonna do now?"

"OK, enough of the Cary Grant shtick and stop feeling sorry for yourself. Get your ass back to the hotel NOW!"

That exchange may be a figment of my imagination, but the crux of it isn't.

The core of Giuliani's campaign was based on the extensive media attention he harvested during his walks near Ground Zero in the wake of 9/11, plus undue credit for his outrage - as if he was the American most disturbed by the tragedy.

As mayor of the city attacked by terrorists, he was front and center at all photo ops, making him seem like the sort of leader who could pilot the nation up from the ashes of the World Trade Center. But he is no Phoenix and that was just one nightmarish week SEVEN YEARS AGO, out of an eight-year run rife with intimidation and ego-driven policies that spurned the word " compromise."

Former Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Joe Biden aptly described the thrust of Giuliani's speeches a few months ago when he said, "A sentence for Rudy Giuliani consists of a noun, a verb and 9/11."

As his reputation and legend solidified - talk show diva Oprah Winfrey anointed him "America's Mayor" - he used his newfound fame when he departed Gracie Mansion to start what has become a successful company, due in no small part to its name - Giuliani Partners - and making speeches at a generous $100,000 a clip that may have enhanced his appeal. However, it's doubtful corporations will pay him that much now that his status has ebbed.

Giuliani may have walked away from City Hall with a seemingly stellar record that restored the Big Apple's luster, but, under closer examination, it was not that high-minded. With his ill-mannered ap-proach and obstinate demeanor, including a failed attempt to annul term limits so he could stay in City Hall another four years, he stepped on a lot of toes, created a racial divide and failed to overhaul the city's long, poorly administered Board of Education. Some New Yorkers were glad to seem him go six years ago. In 2008 AG (After Giuliani), New York City is doin' fine as Michael Bloomberg has im-proved the city's image by leaps and bounds over his predecessor.

Giuliani's national celebrity may have been elevated greatly after the terrorist attacks, but a group of firefighters have aggressively renounced him, claiming he ignored multiple requests for improved FDNY radio communications that may have reduced their losses that day. Firefighters and families of 9/11 emergency personnel took their campaign nationwide, which could have contributed to his collapse.

Regardless, other contributing factors probably made more of an impact on Giuliani's failed campaign. (The Daily News summed up his campaign as "equal parts arrogance and ignorance.") When voters in the heartland learned of his liberal-to-moderate views on such topics as gay rights, abortion, immigration and gun control, plus an adulterous affair, they decided to forsake America's Mayor that slowed his snowballing momentum.

Sometime last fall, with a lead in most polls, Giuliani put all his campaign eggs in one basket and passed up Iowa, New Hampshire, Michigan and South Carolina to concentrate on a single early primary because he held a 20+-point margin in Florida that his campaign manager thought was "momentum-proof." When he turned his back on those regions, voters in other rural and suburban communities probably felt slighted, too, which resulted in eroding poll numbers as the months passed and a strategy that imploded.

Perhaps the ex-mayor believed New Yorkers who retired to Florida would remember him - like the rest of the country - exclusively for his role after September 11, 2001 and that memory would sustain him in the GOP presidential mix. So, like New York's snowbirds, he spent January in the sunny clime of Florida. But when the sun set in the Sunshine State on January 29, the spotlight on Rudy Giuliani had also faded.

What does the future hold for Rudolph Giuliani? Right off, he'll probably go back to work at his lucrative company. Yet one wonders if he'd accept a top cabinet post if a Republican returns to the White House in November or perhaps a future Supreme Court nomination. And if Hillary Clinton becomes the nation's first female commander-in-chief there'll be a U.S. Senate opening he might seek after Gov. Spitzer appoints an interim Democrat to finish her term. Then there's the statehouse for him to consider. After his poor first year, Eliot Spitzer got an up-hill battle if he wants to become a two-term governor.

Nonetheless, even after his botched campaign, it would not be surprising to see Rudy Giuliani enter another presidential race. He could follow in the footsteps of another GOP loser who resurfaced to turn adversity in victory to become President - Richard M. Nixon.

On that note, to paraphrase Nixon, who lost the California governor's race two years after he was defeated in his first White House campaign, with Rudy Giuliani out of contention he won't have 9/11 to kick around anymore.

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