For Giuliani, the real threat Bloomberg may pose is in the primaries.
By Bruce Reed
Thursday, June 21, 2007
If you think you've had a long week, be glad you're not Rudy Giuliani. On Tuesday, his top Iowa adviser left to become Bush's OMB director. He had to dump his South Carolina campaign chair, who was charged with cocaine possession and distribution. But for Giuliani, those headaches paled alongside the week's most excruciating spectacle: seeing his successor, Michael Bloomberg, grace the cover of Time and leave the GOP to plot an independent bid for President. Even if Bloomberg ultimately decides not to run, Giuliani may already be the Bloomberg campaign's first victim.
For Giuliani, the Bloomberg boomlet is bad news on every level. First, Bloomberg joins Fred Thompson in sucking up much of the oxygen that Giuliani's campaign needs to keep breathing. In most national and statewide polls, Giuliani's lead is slipping or has disappeared altogether. While Bloomberg explores how many billions it might take to buy an election, Giuliani suddenly finds himself in no-man's land, as a frontrunner who can't buy a headline.
On Wednesday, Giuliani gave a speech detailing the first of his "12 Commitments." Granted, no one should make too much of a commitment ceremony with Rudy Giuliani. But the plan he offered on fiscal discipline wasn't bad. The national press chose to write another day of stories about Bloomberg.
The second burden is personal. Giuliani is famously selfish about sharing the limelight. He once fired his police chief William Bratton for appearing on the cover of Time. Giuliani's attitude was, "That's my job!" Now a man he thinks he picked for mayor has done it again. Far from firing him, Giuliani has to sit there and read all about it.
Most speculation about Giuliani and Bloomberg has focused on the general election, and the marquee prospect of a Subway Series between two New York mayors and a New York senator. But for Giuliani, the real threat Bloomberg may pose is in the primaries.
Unlike most presidential candidates, who tend to embellish their hometown roots, Giuliani's campaign depends on making Republican-primary voters forget every aspect of his past except 9/11. His Web site calls him "a strong supporter of the Second Amendment," not a Brady-billing assault-weapon banner. He's not from the "abortion capital of the world"; he's for parental notification and decreasing abortions. Gay rights? He's such a traditionalist, his record boasts more straight marriages than any other candidate.
Giuliani's Escape from New York was already tough enough, but Mayor Mike makes it nearly impossible. Bloomberg is the Ghost of Rudy Past—a constant, high-profile reminder of the cultural distance from the South Carolina lowlands to the New York island.
When Bloomberg launched his gun-control crusade, he gave it a name that sounds like the headline from a GOP rival campaign's oppo piece on Giuliani: "Mayors Against Illegal Guns." For conservatives, the same accomplishments the national media loves about Bloomberg are the first signs of the Trilateralist Apocalypse: From penthouses in Manhattan, they'll come for your guns; then they'll snuff your tobacco; and in a final blow to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, they'll take away your God-given right to trans-fats.
Mitt Romney looks disingenuous enough pretending that he saw Massachusetts and tried to stop it. Giuliani has no excuse. His last act as New York City mayor was to urge his people to elect Bloomberg to succeed him. Watching Bloomberg quit the party only reminds conservatives of their primal fear about Giuliani—that the GOP is not an article of faith but a way station of convenience.
You can take the mayor out of the city, but you can't take the city out of the mayor. The more coverage Bloomberg gets, the more his allies will compound the impression that one Hizzoner looks like another. In yesterday's Washington Post, Al Sharpton described Bloomberg with one of those only-in-New-York images:
"A girl in high school catches you looking at her and she starts wearing nice dresses," Sharpton says. "It doesn't mean she is going to date you. But she's at least teasing you, so it really increases your hope. This is a serious tease."
Sharpton just confirmed what they already thought down in South Carolina: Every New York mayor's a cross-dresser.