Nobody can use the change of seasons more than former mayor Rudolph Giuliani, R.-N.Y. Think he'd like a do-over for the week? He lost a pair of campaign chairmen in early-voting states -- one to a spot in the Bush Cabinet, one to bizarre drug charges. (Asks ABC's Jake Tapper: Which fate is worse these days?) National polls show his lead slipping, and state polls have him trailing in the most important states. (He did himself no favors by showing up nearly an hour late for an event in Iowa yesterday.) And we learned this week that Giuliani was skipping Iraq Study Group meetings to attend big-money speeches. (Maybe he knew the report would land with a thud.)
Now comes Giuliani's successor, Michael Bloomberg, ready to buy himself a seat at the 2008 table -- and swipe Rudy's campaign rationale in the process. It's not just the I-fixed-New-York thing where Bloomberg chips away at Giuliani's base. Bloomberg is a doer, a bold, decisive leader at a time that the public is fed up with partisanship. (Sound like anyone else in the race?) And if Giuliani's appeal to the dispirited GOP is built on the assumption that he can reach out to moderates and win a tough general election, does that argument stand up if a billionaire -- a true independent, and a fellow New Yorker at that -- is waiting for him after the primaries?
The Bloomberg-Giuliani relationship has never been strong, and the current mayor's camp has now had more than five years in City Hall to collect damaging material to dump on Giuliani. The former mayor greeted the party-switching news flatly yesterday, declaring "I like Mike" and expressing disappointment in Bloomberg's decision. But this one hurts in Rudy land, The New York Times' Michael Powell reports: "As Mr. Bloomberg is his former supporter and would also campaign as a bold steward of America's largest and safest major city, the sting goes perhaps deepest for Mr. Giuliani."
Bloomberg yesterday repeated his stock answer about expecting to serve out the remainder of his term, but he was loving the attention and did offer this nugget to eager reporters: "I do think the more people that run for office, the better." Remember: This would not be a rash decision -- Bloomberg presidential buzz has been in the ether since he won reelection in November 2005. His aides have game-planned it all thoroughly, and he won't run to play spoiler -- and he know he'll be battling a history that stretches from Teddy Roosevelt to Ross Perot. "The former chief executive of a business media empire would face the same obstacles that have snuffed out all prior such renegade ventures," John Harwood and John McKinnon write in The Wall Street Journal.
Giuliani capped the week by showing up 50 minutes for a speech in Des Moines, which did little to turn around the storyline of a campaign in turmoil in Iowa. "That's a pretty big screw-up," Des Moines Register columnist David Yepsen writes on this blog. But Yepsen still sees hope for Giuliani: "Add it all up and it's still not a bad scenario for the former New York Mayor in Iowa. But it does require more time on task here."