In March, asked to explain Giuliani's lead in national polls, McCain told reporters, "I'm not here to try to tout Mayor Giuliani for president of the United States, but having said that he understands law and order; he worked in the Justice Department; he has many qualifications that I think are impressive. And I'd like to stop touting his candidacy, but he's a genuine American hero who has great credentials."
For his part, Giuliani has gone so far as to tell a crowd in Iowa, "I happen to be a very big admirer of Sen. McCain and I can tell you quite honestly that if I weren't running for president I would be here supporting him. If for some reason I made a decision not to run he'd be my candidate."
But in the past few weeks, the tone and tenor between the two seems to have shifted. What seemed almost like a nonaggression pact between them has been rescinded.
Friday, after news broke that Kerik, Giuliani's friend and former aide, had been indicted, McCain told reporters that he "went to Baghdad shortly after the initial victory and met in Baghdad with [Ambassador Paul] Bremer and [Lt. Gen. Ricardo] Sanchez. And Kerik was there. Kerik was supposed to be there to help train the police force. He stayed two months and one day left, just up and left."
"That's why I never would've supported him to be the head of Homeland Security because of his irresponsible act when he was over in Baghdad to try and help train the police," McCain said, an obvious shot at Giuliani who had highly recommended Kerik for the job. "One of the reasons why we had so much trouble with the initial training of the police was because he came, didn't do anything and then went out to the airport and left."
When told of McCain's comments, Giuliani was genuinely taken aback, Carbonetti says, noting that sometimes reporters try to gin up fights by reading quotes to a candidate that a rival campaign has made, though not a rival candidate him- or herself, which is much different.
"I'd be very surprised if John did that," Giuliani said Friday. "John is a good friend." Giuliani said he likely had approximately 20 quotes of McCain extolling his virtues. "John prides himself on being a straight shooter and nothing has changed. And John has made all these comments since these things came out and I really doubt he has changed his mind about that. I'd be really surprised if he did."
Their campaigns, meanwhile, upped the ante, with McCain campaign manager Rick Davis sending out a letter to supporters hammering the mayor's recommendation of Kerik, and noting, "A president's judgment matters and Rudy Giuliani has repeatedly placed personal loyalty over regard for the facts."
Giuliani's communications director Katie Levinson meanwhile hammered back: "John McCain's pure desperation in the face of a failing and flailing campaign" while former Giuliani deputy mayor Randy Mastro said, "It's no fairer to judge Rudy Giuliani on the basis of this one issue than it would be to judge John McCain on the basis of the Keating 5 scandal."
McCain and Giuliani first met in Giuliani's office in City Hall in April 1998, when both men were thinking about ways to nationalize their appeal. "We talked about moderating and broadening the base of the Republican Party," Giuliani told reporters. "He appreciated my influence to that extent to create a broader middle for the party."