The Note: Rudy Gets Roughed Up

Topping the polls is fun, Rudy, isn't it? You get invited to the best parties, your face graces the cover of magazines, and your mug is on TV even when you're not in your primo seat at Yankee Stadium. Then there's the matter of that big target you grow on your back . . .

Rudolph Giuliani's (R-N.Y.) harsh lesson in leading the pack is continuing going into tomorrow's Republican presidential debate in South Carolina. It's not just abortion, where a fresh round of questions yesterday yielded new potential problems for his campaign. (Will Republicans believe the opinionated ex-mayor doesn't have an opinion as to when life begins?)

It's not just his consulting business, which earned $100 million in five years but also brought the former Gotham mayor into contact with a gallery of comic-book villains, according to The Washington Post. (How long can he keep his client list secret?) It's not just his personal life, with his three marriages, including his current one to Judith Nathan, who gets the New York magazine scrub the campaign had to know was coming. (They met in a cigar bar -- very "Sex and the City.")

Now come new details of Giuliani's signature moment -- 9/11 -- and they aren't flattering. The New York Times' Anthony DePalma today examines Hizzoner's possible culpability in the respiratory problems suffered by Ground Zero workers. DePalma reports that, in sidelining federal agencies and barreling ahead with cleanup without regard to safety rules, "Mr. Giuliani might have allowed his sense of purpose to trump caution in the rush to prove that his city was not crippled by the attack." LINK

On the Democratic side, front-runner Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) is largely staying out of the news. But Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) used the first Sunday-morning interview of his candidacy to cling to middle ground on ABC's "This Week," touting his ability to "build consensus around hard problems." That extends to Iraq, where he's resisting pressure from former sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) to rule out compromise, despite the fact that Obama urged Congress to vote against war funding as a Senate candidate in 2003. Instead, Obama is intensifying his push to get Republican senators to support a troop withdrawal with a new Web campaign. "We can do it in a way that doesn't play games with our troops on the ground," Obama said. LINK

And since it wouldn't be a weekend in this fluid race without noise from a shadow candidate, Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) left more than a little room for the possibility that he could join Mayor Michael Bloomberg (R-N.Y.) on an independent ticket in 2008. "It's a great country to think about -- a New York boy and a Nebraska boy to be teamed up leading this nation," Hagel said on CBS' "Face the Nation." LINK

You couldn't escape the 2008ers if you owned a television yesterday -- including Giuliani and Obama, four of the Big Six made a Sunday show appearance. A full wrap-up: LINK

The Giuliani file:

The Washington Post's John Solomon and Matthew Mosk reported Sunday that Giuliani's consulting firm has raked in $100 million. He's still not revealing his client list, but the story notes that his partners have included "a former police commissioner later convicted of corruption, a former FBI executive who admitted taking artifacts from Ground Zero and a former Roman Catholic priest accused of covering up sexual abuse in the church." LINK

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