26 Jan 2008

Giuliani Not Winning in Florida

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The Times’ Gail Collins writes Rudy’s epitaph.

Tuesday’s Florida primary is supposed to be the Giuliani firewall, his explanation for why he kept coming in third or fourth or fifth everywhere else. . . . Many commentators have pointed out — really very unkindly — that the longer Giuliani stayed in Florida, the lower his standing in the state polls. Perhaps it would have been wiser for him to make his stand in a place where people had barely heard of him.

They say Guam is quite lovely this time of year.

“The reality is we are getting support,” said the candidate in answer to the inevitable question. He says “the reality is …” very, very often. Almost as often as he says “very, very.”

Those of us who live in New York found it rather peculiar that Giuliani was a front-runner at all, given his deeply mixed record running the city. Now, the idea that Florida might take him out of the race is somewhat disappointing. There’s still so much about him we haven’t yet had a chance to share with the national electorate. Did we ever mention the time he tried to stop the city elections because he didn’t think that New York could get along without him?

Rudy was thrown off his game by the public’s shift from worrying about terrorism to worrying about the economy, and a dwindling interest in hearing him talk about where he was when the terrorists attacked New York. He’s tried to rebound by vigorously promoting a national catastrophe fund to reduce the cost of home insurance in hurricane-prone Florida. This is not, in general, an idea that fiscal conservatives cotton to. It’s so dicey, in fact, that even Mitt Romney has been hesitant about adopting it as a pander-point.

Giuliani has turned hurricanes into nature’s way of saying Al Qaeda. (“All of us are subject to the impact of natural disasters … and of course acts of terrorism, which I remember living through.”)

Perhaps he can pull it off. Florida is one of those places that makes participating in elections as easy as ordering a drive-thru hamburger. People have been casting their votes for almost two weeks now. Maybe a lot of them voted for Rudy and then were embarrassed to admit it to the pollsters, once they discovered he wasn’t really very popular after all.

Still, his campaign has a definite pall over it, and his many hangers-on have to be wondering whether another pathetic showing here would damage the Rudy brand. Are corporations still going to pay him $100,000 for lecturing about leadership and 9/11 now that they know he’s done it for free on the pool deck at the Rosen Centre Hotel in Orlando and Paisano’s Gourmet Pizza in Port St. Lucie? (More critically from the minions’ perspective, are they still going to provide, as the speaking contract requires, “first-class travel expenses for up to five people?”)

Are they still going to hire his firm, Giuliani Partners, to do whatever it is Giuliani Partners is supposed to do, now that the glow of hanging out with America’s Mayor has faded? Before the terrorist attack, after all, Rudy Giuliani was just a lame-duck mayor with abysmal approval ratings, a tabloidy personal life and uncertain job prospects. What 9/11 has given, 1/29 could taketh away.

Perhaps that’s why he’s refrained from saying anything unpleasant about any of his competitors in Florida. Mitt Romney and John McCain are torn between trying to go in for the kill and their desire to avoid looking like Barack and Hillary. The best Rudy can do, on the other hand, might be to avoid looking like a future contender on “The Celebrity Apprentice.”

Hat tip to Stephen Frankel.

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