Giuliani Time No More

As recently as this fall, Rudy Giuliani ranked highly in both nationwide and state polls. Now, it’s gotten so bad that even people in the tri-state area are wondering about his chances:

For months, the Republican establishment in New York and New Jersey marched nearly in lock step behind Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former hometown mayor they were confident would become their party’s nominee for president.

But as Mr. Giuliani has plummeted from first to fourth — or worse — in some national polls, as he finished near the bottom of the pack in the nation’s earliest primaries, and as his lead evaporated even in Florida, the state on which he has gambled the most time and money, those Republican leaders are verging toward a grim new consensus:

If Mr. Giuliani loses in the Florida primary on Jan. 29, they say, he may even have trouble defeating the rivals who are encroaching on his own backyard.

“It’s pretty certain that he has to win Florida,” said Guy V. Molinari, the former Staten Island borough president, who is co-chairman of Mr. Giuliani’s campaign in New York.

Those supporters say they are confident that if Mr. Giuliani carries Florida or runs a very close second, he will remain the odds-on favorite to claim virtually all of the delegates from the New York, New Jersey and Connecticut primaries on Feb. 5, when Republicans in 22 states vote.

But if Mr. Giuliani is relegated to a distant second or worse in Florida, even some of his supporters acknowledge that New York’s primary one week later would most likely be up for grabs, with Senator John McCain of Arizona and former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts being Mr. Giuliani’s strongest rivals. Like Mr. Giuliani, both are fielding full delegate slates in all 29 of the state’s Congressional districts.

“If he carries Florida, he carries New York,” said Fred Siegel, a Cooper Union historian who has served as an adviser to the former mayor and written a largely admiring biography of him. But winning Florida would require “a miraculous comeback,” he said, adding: “I wouldn’t bet on it.”

Giuliani obviously wouldn’t be running for president were it not for Sept. 11. With the exception of generals or war heroes, few leaders actually get the opportunity to show their leadership skills; his performance in the days after Sept. 11 was one of those rare opportunities — and he was good, too! He burnished his image as a leader who can remain cool and project a steady image in a difficult situation. Like I said, leaders just don’t get those kind of opportunities to rise to the occasion.

That said, recently I started to think about it and I asked myself how I’d feel with the U.S. being led by someone whose narrative was so wrapped up in Sept. 11. I don’t generally give a merde about how the rest of the world sees the U.S., but I felt a little uneasy about the image of this 9/11 warrior traipsing around the world; I imagined myself as a European thinking that Americans are still so worked up about Sept. 11 that they elected this guy. It struck me as wallowing in victimhood. Sept. 11 was horrible, but I feel like I want to move away from it — not because I’m callous but because, well, it’s weird to keep living like that.

Point being, are there other voters who deep down feel the same way? That when you really start to think about it, the image Giuliani would project around the world would be one of backward-looking victimhood*. And it’s not so much about Giuliani’s policies or his style or anything substantive more than its just kind of embarrassing to keep worrying about the threat of Islamic Fascism. It was scary in 2001-2003. It’s less so now. But even if UBL sets off a nuclear weapon in midtown, do we really want to keep defining ourselves this way?

Bonus dangerously offensive sounding psychological angle: Is Obama’s reluctance to portray himself as a black candidate taking into account our collective psychological need to ditch the politics of victimhood and Giulianism?

*Request to Reference Room: Did this happen with Churchill?