giuliani’s descent

Posted on January 30, 2008


It wasn’t that long ago when former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani was seen as the front runner in the Republican race for the presidential nomination, leading national polls as the favorite.

His “firewall”, Florida, where he staked his entire campaign at the expense of working the ground in the other early-voting states, had failed miserably.

He placed a distant third in Florida’s primary election, claiming 15 per cent of the votes, behind John McCain (36%) and Mitt Romney (31%).


(NYT picture)

The talk all over town is that Giuliani will drop out of the race by Wednesday and endorse his long-time friend, McCain.

So how did it come to this for America’s mayor?

Critics will go on at length about his high-risk gamble that caused him to lose the shirt off his back.

While choosing not to campaign in the states of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Michigan because he thought he had no hope of winning there seemed smart enough at the time and would lessen his embarrassing second-tier showings in those contests, not working those states also ensured he dropped out of the national news and the public’s consciousness.

So Giuliani’s less-fancied rivals, like former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee stole the limelight, and the momentum after capturing Iowa.

In the ensuing contests in New Hampshire, Michigan, Nevada and South Carolina, Giuliani fell further back and lost more momentum as his rivals who had campaigned there took turns to win and gain their place in the spotlight.

Like Fred Thompson, who only started stirring in South Carolina, Giuliani learnt the lesson too late – that it was just not possible, nor smart, to neglect the early-voting states and go for broke in only one state.

Floridians were obviously not impressed by Giuliani’s message. Not only was it backward-looking, with all that emphasis on 9/11 and terrorism but suffered the image of taking a page from the Bush presidency’s playbook of fear-mongering. Unfortunately for Giuliani, that type of message no longer resonated strongly with voters. His tax cuts plans, similarly, did not seem to move Florida voters either.

Giuliani had a spate of bad news that did his presidential ambitions no favors, such as the federal indictment of his personal friend and police commissioner, Bernard Kernik, on charges of tax fraud and impropriety.

Then the media dug up examples of diva-esque behavior of his third wife, on top of Giuliani spending public funds for rendezvous with her in the Hamptons before they were married.

Most embarrassingly, his daughter was found to be a supporter of Democratic hopeful, Senator Barack Obama.

Of course, Giuliani’s liberal stand on issues such as gun control, gay rights and abortion rights, never sat well with conservative Republicans.

Add to all that, his inability to raise funds to the tune of $100 million that he thought he would have no problem getting. His campaign had to suffer the indignity of news leaks that his staffers were not paid in the last month as a way to cut down on expenses.

Despite spending so much time in Florida, Giuliani did not get the endorsements he had badly wanted from the big-wigs of the state, such as Governor Charlie Crist, who went with McCain instead.

So Giuliani will follow the tide and back McCain, solidifying his frontrunner status.

Tonight was undoubtedly McCain’s night but he was gracious enough to acknowledge his competitors and offer them kind words when he gave his victory speech.

“This was a hard fought election, and worth fighting hard for, but I’ve been on the other side of such contests before, and experienced the disappointment.

“I offer my best wishes to Governor Romney and his supporters. You fought hard for your candidate, and the margin that separated us tonight surely isn’t big enough for me to brag about or for you to despair.

“Governor Huckabee and his supporters, as always, brought to this campaign conviction and passion and something we don’t always have enough of in these contests, good humor and grace.

“And I want to thank, my dear friend, Rudy Giuliani, who invested his heart and soul in this primary, and who conducted himself with all the qualities of the exceptional American leader he truly is. Thank you, for all you have added to this race, and for being an inspiration to me and millions of Americans”

So with Giuliani’s exit, the field narrows down to McCain, Romney, Huckabee and Ron Paul as they head towards Super Tuesday next week, when 21 states are at stake.