Rudolph W. Giuliani has entered a turbulent period in his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, marked by what his aides acknowledge are missteps, sharp shifts in strategy and evidence that reports about his personal life have hurt his national standing.
A $3 million investment in radio and television advertising in New Hampshire, a belated effort to become competitive in this state, is now viewed by the campaign as a largely wasted expenditure.
A Boston Globe poll published Sunday found that support for Mr. Giuliani had dropped in New Hampshire over the past month, even before any fallout from the decision on Wednesday by an ailing Mr. Giuliani to have his campaign plane turn around and take him back to St. Louis, where he spent the night in the hospital.
Some of Mr. Giuliani’s advisers are frustrated at the extent to which his decision not to compete aggressively in Iowa has pushed him to the side of the stage at a moment when the political world’s attention is focused on the caucuses there that will kick off the election season in less than two weeks.
Mr. Giuliani’s initial campaign theme, built around his record as mayor of New York, has given way to a new one: “Tested. Ready. Now.” But its introduction, in a speech last Saturday in Tampa, drew little attention on a day when most of the other Republican and Democratic presidential candidates were grabbing the spotlight in Iowa and New Hampshire.
Hospitalization compounds problems
Compounding his problems, Mr. Giuliani drew the kind of attention last week that a candidate with declining national poll numbers and a history of treatment for prostate cancer would just as soon avoid after he abruptly entered the hospital in St. Louis and stayed there overnight.
His aides declined to provide details of what had happened to Mr. Giuliani, other than he was complaining of flulike symptoms, or what tests he might have undergone. The situation grew even more muddled when Mr. Giuliani disputed what his campaign had said about his condition, saying that in fact he had been suffering from a severe headache and that his doctor would be able to issue a definitive statement this week after seeing test results.
As a result of all this, what might have been a one-day campaign trail story was still reverberating on Sunday.
Mr. Giuliani’s decision to maintain a light schedule of public appearances compared with his rivals, particularly Mitt Romney of Massachusetts and Senator John McCain of Arizona, has stirred concern among some prospective supporters who fear that he does not appear hungry for the job, a criticism that shadowed him when he ran for senator in New York in 2000.
“I hate to say this, but I don’t think Rudy wants it badly enough,” Patrick Ruffini, a blogger, wrote on Townhall.com, a conservative Web site.
That sentiment by Mr. Ruffini, a former e-mail director for the Republican National Committee, was featured prominently on the editorial page of The Concord Monitor on Sunday, greeting Mr. Giuliani on a day when he had two campaign events in New Hampshire.
Mr. Giuliani is still viewed as a very strong candidate with continued high potential in a very unsettled field. He could be helped by the unusual calendar of nominating contests, with the chance it provides for him to pick up large numbers of delegates on Feb. 5 and recover from any early setbacks.
“We have always run a campaign that is based on a long-term strategy of getting the most delegates,” said Mike DuHaime, his campaign manager.
Changing political landscape
Still, the difficulties within Mr. Giuliani’s campaign come as he faces changes in the political landscape that do not appear to be to his benefit. For much of the year, he was helped by his positioning as tough on terrorism and by the perception among many Republicans that he was their best weapon to block Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton were she to win the Democratic nomination.
But issues like immigration are proving far more decisive among Republicans than terrorism, especially since the violence in Iraq has diminished. Mrs. Clinton is struggling to win her own party’s nomination, which has had the effect of undercutting what had been one of Mr. Giuliani’s biggest selling points.
Mr. Giuliani’s closest advisers in this campaign include a number of longtime loyalists who, though seasoned in New York City politics, have not run a national campaign before. One of the key questions from the start of his entry into the race has been the extent to which Mr. Giuliani would open up this circle — a small, rarely changing circle of hard-driving New Yorkers, known for tough language and tough tactics — to advisers with national experience.
To a certain extent, he has done this. Acting on the recommendation of Ken Mehlman, the former Republican National Committee chairman, Mr. Giuliani named Mr. DuHaime, a former political director of the Republican National Committee, as his campaign director, and Mr. DuHaime brought a number of veterans of the Republican committee with him.
But Republicans who have dealt with the campaign say that it is more Anthony Carbonetti, along with other New York insiders, who has Mr. Giuliani’s ear, and who is, with the former mayor, driving many of the major decisions in the campaign. Mr. Carbonetti, who has been a senior adviser to Mr. Giuliani since his early days in New York politics, has continued working at Mr. Giuliani’s consulting firm, Giuliani Partners, and spends much of his time not at Mr. Giuliani’s campaign headquarters in Lower Manhattan, but at the firm’s headquarters in Times Square.
The two camps were described by some campaign officials as culturally uneasy with one another. All the senior officials hold Thursday morning conference call strategy sessions, known as “the Chairman’s Call,” because it is led by the Giuliani campaign chairman, Patrick C. Oxford, a long-time fund-raiser.
When campaign aides talk about strategy, especially in public settings, they have taken to calling Mr. Giuliani “Ralph” rather than “Rudy,” according to associates of Mr. Giuliani.
One participant in the calls, who asked not to be identified because he was discussing internal campaign strategy, said the advisers often spent hours talking about subjects like the logistics of campaign events — where Mr. Giuliani would stand, what the backdrop would be — rather than a long-term message that goes beyond the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks or Mr. Giuliani’s record as mayor of New York.
Mr. Giuliani and his team are making a tremendous gamble: that he can make only token efforts in Iowa, New Hampshire and, probably, South Carolina, but still go on to win in Florida in late January and in many of the big states holding primaries or caucuses on Feb. 5.
His campaign has settled on that strategy after veering back and forth about the right approach. At first, his advisers signaled that he would largely bypass Iowa, as well as New Hampshire, where Mr. Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, enjoys a home-field advantage. Then he made moves to compete in both those states, especially New Hampshire, where he invested heavily in advertising and went toe-to-toe with Mr. Romney, who has spent close to $8 million on television spots.
But now Mr. Giuliani’s advisers say they have decided that their route to victory is to do well in Michigan on Jan. 15 and to win in Florida on Jan. 29. That would give him strength heading into Feb. 5, when 22 states — including New York, New Jersey and California, all of which have large numbers of delegates and relatively moderate Republican voters — hold their contests.
“At the end of the day, it’s a numbers game,” Mr. Carbonetti said.
What this has meant is that while the rest of the candidates have been in Iowa, where their every move is followed by hundreds of reporters, Mr. Giuliani has been investing much of his time in fund-raising or paying visits to states which have later contests. His campaign has reached a point where his success is increasingly contingent on other candidates’ failing.
If either Mr. Romney or Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas, wins two or three of the first contests, Mr. Giuliani’s task will be greatly complicated, particularly if party leaders and contributors begin coalescing around someone who appears to be a winner.
Indeed, one of the points of division in Mr. Giuliani’s campaign is how to deal with the sudden threat of Mr. Huckabee. Some of them are arguing that a strong showing by Mr. Huckabee in Iowa would help Mr. Giuliani by muddying the field. Others are warning that Mr. Huckabee could eclipse Mr. Giuliani if they do not knock him back now.
'Disappointed with his personal life'
Mr. Giuliani’s position has changed notably from even a month ago. For much of this year, Republicans had expressed admiration, and some surprise, at the extent to which he appeared to have dealt with concerns about his views on abortion and gay rights, as well as his private life. Mr. Giuliani showed significant leads in most national polls; he routinely drew warm and enthusiastic receptions from audiences more conservative than he.
His advisers say that a recent run of negative news reports, focusing on an extramarital affair and his association with Bernard Kerik, the disgraced former police commissioner that Mr. Giuliani recommended as homeland security secretary, is beginning to take a toll.
“I am a little disappointed with his personal life,” said Elisabeth Ackerson, speaking about Mr. Giuliani after attending a Town Hall meeting for Mr. Romney on Saturday evening in Londonderry, N.H. She said was trying to decide among Mr. Romney, Mr. McCain and Mr. Giuliani.
The apparent failure of Mr. Giuliani’s advertising campaign in New Hampshire stirred particular concern among some Giuliani advisers.
Mr. Carbonetti said the campaign decided to pull back on the television advertising after determining that the sheer glut from other candidates in New Hampshire was making it impossible for Mr. Giuliani’s spots to break though. “The airwaves were saturated,” he said.
Ed Goeas, Mr. Giuliani’s pollster, said he thought any gain from the advertising had been offset by news reports about whether Mr. Giuliani’s city administration in New York had properly accounted for his security costs, including during time he was spending with Judith Nathan, then his girlfriend and now his wife.
But other Giuliani advisers said they feared that the failure of the advertising to strengthen him in New Hampshire was evidence that Mr. Giuliani’s attempt to run for president based largely on his record as mayor was flawed.
Michael Cooper contributed reporting.