New Yorkers are watching with great relief as the rest of America catches on to the malevolent hoax that is Rudy Giuliani and his poll numbers crash among those unfortunate enough to get to know him (i.e. Republican voters in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina).
In all three states, Giuliani's numbers are now far closer to Ron Paul's than to Mitt Romney's. In Iowa, he will be lucky if he finishes third (and owe it all to Fred Thompson's risible performance). In New Hampshire, which should have been his best bet, he's in a fierce contest for second place with rising star John McCain. And in South Carolina, the most recent poll shows him in fifth place, statistically tied with Paul.
When in August the Giuliani campaign accidentally released an internal presentation proclaiming Florida to be his "firewall," it seemed oddly pessimistic. Yes, he was dropping, but he was still second in Iowa where he had barely campaigned; he was tied for first in New Hampshire and unexpectedly leading Thompson in South Carolina. Pretty much everywhere else, he was way ahead.
By October, the campaign's "firewall" memo seemed prescient. Now, it all looks wildly optimistic: even in Florida, Huckabee is starting to work his Mormon-hating voodoo, and the vaunted New York retirees who were going to vote for Giuliani in droves seem less important (how many are there anyway, and do they really vote in the GOP primary?).
At the time of the memo, a Giuliani aide was quoted as saying that "New Jersey's the firewall, Connecticut's the firewall, New York's the firewall." Yes, we'll give Giuliani that: Republican voters in the tri-state area (for that's what it is) are likely to vote for him rather than for the other crazies but, by my count, those states account for about 8 percent of the Republican delegates. This is roughly the same as Georgia, Tennessee and Alabama, which vote the same day (February 5) and which an equally desperate Thompson is basically counting on as his own firewall, recently boasting that he has more endorsements in Georgia than all other GOP candidates combined.
What is perhaps most striking is that it appears that Giuliani's fairly liberal position on a number of social issues is not necessarily what is killing the deal for GOP voters. As recently as mid-October a CBS News poll showed Giuliani tied for first place among white evangelical voters, who surely by then had more than an inkling that the New York City mayor was not a fire-breathing Christian conservative.
No, what is making Republican voters recoil is the aura of sleaze and corruption that surrounds Giuliani. I would bet that more primary voters knew that he was "pro-gay" (at least in their minds) than knew that he pushed strong and hard for one of New York's most corrupt police chiefs (now that is saying something) to become head of homeland security. And I would most definitely bet that more voters knew he was in favor of legalized abortion than that he was on his third marriage, having wed the woman who was his mistress while he was mayor (after announcing to his then-wife on local television that he was divorcing her).
The damage is compounded by the fact that the mayor is completely unlikable (this is someone whom even New Yorkers found too abrasive, or at least "not likable;" why did anyone think he would play well in Iowa or South Carolina?). Bill Clinton or Ronald Reagan's charisma could make voters forgive and forget some pretty dreadful personal shortcomings, but it's unlikely that Giuliani, the original Darth Vader, could rely on his charm alone to absolve him of littering, let alone of his actual serious crimes.
Just as bad is Giuliani's mad grandiloquence perhaps a necessary quality when running for president, but one that candidates need to be sure remains deeply hidden. At the very least, they should wait until after they are elected to believe their own hype and, in the case of Giuliani, be gently reminded that on September 5, 2001, only 39 percent of New Yorkers had a favorable opinion of their mayor, not exactly the stuff on which successful presidential campaigns are built.
These off-putting reports about Giuliani's recent past are ripening despite the mainstream media's inability to cover him objectively, even though journalists should know they can no longer fear backlash for tarnishing the idol of 9/11. Thankfully, though, those voters who are paying attention (and that would be most of them in the earliest states) are turning away in disgust, or at least in embarrassment. And unless something next to impossible happens, Giuliani's presidential ambitions will evaporate once and for all, even though, of course, he'll always have New Jersey.