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Giuliani facing bad news at a bad time

Republican presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani has confronted a spate of bad news in recent days, from the drug indictment of his South Carolina chairman to criticism for skipping meetings of the Iraq Study Group.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Republican presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani has confronted a spate of bad news in recent days, from the drug indictment of his South Carolina chairman to criticism for skipping meetings of the Iraq Study Group.

Every campaign faces bad news at one time or another, but with a fundraising deadline looming Saturday, the timing couldn't be worse. Most voters are not tuned in, but for those who are giving and raising money for the former New York mayor, the heartburn-inducing headlines may make them think twice.

The string of events _ some Giuliani's making, some out of his hands _ comes as national polls continue to show him ahead of his rivals, but surveys in early voting states have him trailing or losing ground.

Unannounced candidate Fred Thompson and Mitt Romney outpace Giuliani in a Nevada poll released this week. Romney had the edge in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Giuliani's campaign, seeking to reassure his supporters, sent out a memo Friday contending that he still is well-positioned to win the Republican nomination for president.

"While the race has tightened and our campaign has been challenged, we continue to lead in public opinion polling and we are now a better-defined campaign than when this race began in February," said the memo written by Giuliani strategy director Brent Seaborn.

How Giuliani responds is a critical measure of his campaign, said GOP strategist Rich Galen.

"The test is how well he holds up in those periods every campaign has when things go badly," Galen said. "The Giuliani campaign has kept their eyes faced frontward. The secret is to keep the campaign moving forward."

Among his woes:

  • Giuliani's South Carolina chairman, state Treasurer Thomas Ravenel, was indicted on federal cocaine charges last week and stepped down from Giuliani's campaign. Ravenel's 80-year-old father, Arthur, remains regional chairman for the southeastern part of the state.
  • Giuliani drew criticism last week for failing to attend official meetings of the Iraq Study Group, a bipartisan panel that unanimously called for gradual troop reductions in Iraq. Giuliani said he quit the panel after two months because it didn't seem that he could keep it focused on "a bipartisan, nonpolitical resolution." However, Newsday reported that instead of attending two meetings, Giuliani was at paid speaking engagements.
  • New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who was elected in 2001 with Giuliani's support, last week switched from Republican to unaffiliated, clearing the way for a possible independent presidential bid.
  • Victims' advocates called on Giuliani to fire Monsignor Alan Placa, a Catholic priest suspended from the church over abuse allegations, from Giuliani's security consulting firm. A Giuliani spokeswoman said last week that the company has no plans to fire Placa, a childhood friend of Giuliani's.
  • Former Environmental Protection Agency administrator Christie Todd Whitman said New York, under then-mayor Giuliani, should have made Sept. 11 emergency workers wear respirators. Whitman testified Monday on Capitol Hill. Giuliani's campaign responded that all ground zero workers were repeatedly told to wear respirators and called Whitman's account "revisionist at best."

Analysts say older stories could also persist. For example, federal prosecutors are pursuing an investigation of Bernard Kerik, who was Giuliani's police commissioner and worked for his consulting firm.

All three leading Republicans _ Giuliani, McCain and Romney _ have dealt with bad news. Compounding their woes, however, is a GOP electorate hardly wowed by its choices _ and Thompson waiting in the wings.

"Certainly Giuliani has had a rough couple of weeks," said Dante Scala, political science professor at the University of New Hampshire. "He can recover. In terms of trying to get activists' support and buzz, that's what summer is for."

Indeed, Giuliani's campaign promised to spend the summer promoting Giuliani and his dozen proposals _ he calls them the "Twelve Commitments" _ to address crime, spending, education and other areas.

"As voters have the opportunity to learn about the Mayor's Twelve Commitments, we will have provided them with ample cause to vote for Mayor Giuliani and solidify support," the memo reads.