THAT'S THE BIG GIULIANI SCANDAL?
I watched the GOP debate, and now I come back and still the top story in Blogistan is the Politico article about Giuliani's security-detail billing irregularities while he was slinking around with then-girlfriend Judi. Hunh? What am I missing? I'm not saying this doesn't stink, but why does everyone think this is such a huge deal?
In the debate, Giuliani responded to the Politico story by saying that, as mayor, he had 24-hour security wherever he went. That doesn't address the question of why the expenses were buried in various obscure agencies' budgets -- but if I were Mr. and Mrs. Sixpack, I'd think that was an adequate answer. From a money standpoint, I suspect the public won't find this any sleazier than what they figure the average pol gets away with every day, and I think the sex angle seems awfully vanilla (the "live boy or a dead girl" principle applies here) -- don't forget that, in most people's experience, Rudy's had just one wife, and the girlfriend he was sneaking off to see is now that wife. I find myself wondering if we self-styled sophisticates are more prurient about Rudy than Middle America is.
As Steve Benen of the Carpetbagger Report and Allahpundit at Hot Air noted today, Giuliani seems to be slipping out of contention in the GOP race -- he'll lose badly to Romney and Huckabee in Iowa and to Romney in New Hampshire, and in South Carolina, where he once was leading, he's now in fifth place. And his once-huge lead in Florida has shrunk to a single-digit lead -- with Huckabee now in second place.
I think his biggest problem is not scandal, or factually dubious answers to questions, or even litmus-test-defying positions on social issues -- I think Nasty Rudy is being beaten at his own game by Nasty With A Polyurethane Coating Of Nice Mitt. That's certainly how it looked in the opening minutes of the debate tonight, when Romney pummeled Giuliani on whether New York was a "sanctuary city" and fought back effectively when Rudy brought up the undocumented workers on Romney's house. Romney's really good at being nasty while seeming good-natured, which is what Rudy was supposed to be good at (Fred Thompson, too).
Obviously Mitt's early-state strategy was smart, and Rudy has never seemed to have a way to beat it, but it wouldn't be working if Romney wasn't connecting with at least those early-state voters, and I can see why he is -- he can appeal to their inner rage junkie while making them feel he's doing just the opposite.
And maybe Huckabee is even hurting Rudy -- the Rudy appeal was always that he was that he was a transcendent secular saint, a guy who'd survived an encounter with Death. Huck is a wimpy preacher who's encountered the Big Bad Media and is beating their ridicule while waving a Bible, which must seem even better, even more transcendent, to many GOP voters than emerging from the smoke of Ground Zero.
So, yeah, Rudy's in trouble, but not because of bookkeeping irregularities.
UPDATE: By the way, the current mayor of New York owns dwellings in Bermuda, London, Florida, and Vail, Colorado, and news reports suggest that he spends a fair amount of time at the Bermuda getaway. I don't know what Bloomberg's security arrangement are when he's out of the country getting some R&R, but I sense it wouldn't be considered scandalous for the city to pick up the tab.