Farewell, if not universally fond, to Rudy Giuliani

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The Independent US

Not to kick a man when he is down, but there will be lots of folk wearing grins today as Rudy Giuliani reflects on the reality check that finally slapped him in the face in the Florida sun. And you really thought Republicans across the land would embrace you even with that picture of you out there dressed in drag?

That is probably the nub of Mr Giuliani's crash-landing here with third place in Tuesday's primary election. The picture itself was innocent enough – he was cross-dressing for a press dinner skit in 2000 – but it was a symbol of his greatest weakness: regardless of his 9/11 heroics, Mr Giuliani was once Mayor of the most liberal city in America. He had gay room-mates, supported gun control and tolerated abortion.

Foes of Mr Giuliani refused to believe he could kid voters for very long even last summer when national polls consistently showed him leading the field of presidential hopefuls. At times, he was twenty points ahead. Surely they would soon hear of his reputation for petty vindictiveness in his two terms as Mayor, even warehousing portraits of predecessors who dared criticise him.

Yet his seemed a balloon no one could puncture. He hired acolytes from New York to advise him, surely a mistake. The confidence they felt just weeks ago was as deep as the Schadenfreude is today. "I don’t believe this can be taken from us," boasted senior policy counselor Anthony Carbonetti in November.

No one apparently thought to ask whether name recognition was the factor making him soar. Voters were barely paying attention then. But it was at that time that Giuliani prodigy and former New York police chief Bernard Kerik was indicted on fraud charges and the city's fire-fighters were coming out not to praise him for 9/11 but to excoriate him for things that went wrong on New York's darkest day.

When Rudy taunted his rivals to hurry up and join him in Florida just two weeks ago, he surely knew the wheels were coming loose. The myth that he spun about not really competing in the early states where he had fared so badly was just that, a fairy tale. He visited New Hampshire 56 times last year. In December he lavished television advertising there and saw nothing back from it.

He gambled everything on Florida, in other words, because he had no choice. When his rivals did show up, straight after the South Carolina contest, the old Rudy had already vanished. On the stump he was, to these eyes and ears anyway, simply awful: neither uplifting nor pugnacious but tense and tedious. Rudy could be a human torpedo in New York as Mayor. In last week's debate he was a limp lily.

On Monday, he scraped together his last remaining dollars to charter a Boeing 727 to hopscotch the state. Yet, it must have been agony. There were barely 100 supporters at any of his stops.

As the numbers late Tuesday confirmed his dramatic demise, Mr Giuliani appeared to make what could have been his last speech ever as a politician – save for one more when he endorses John McCain. It was gracious and occasionally good humoured. You sensed relief in the man somewhere.

But there is no hiding what has happened. It was the old Rudy Giuliani who eviscerated the Brooklyn Arts Museum back in 1999 for daring to hang a portrait of the Madonna with elephant dung attached. Today, the artist, Chris Ofili, is among those allowed to smile, because now the shit is on Rudy.

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