Mayor Michael Bloomberg has tapped Rudy Giuliani to lead City Hall’s efforts to lure the Republican National Convention to New York City in 2004, G.O.P. sources have told The Observer .
In agreeing to be the chairman of a team that will lobby that party’s site-selectioncommittee, Mr. Giuliani is lendinghis post–Sept. 11 celebrity to what is shaping up as one of the Bloombergadministration’s highest-profileinitiatives._Mr. Bloomberg is going to enormous lengths to win both the Republican and Democratic conventions, arguing that either one, or both, would provide a huge lift to the city’s economy and morale in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack.
The choice of Mr. Giuliani as front man is a bold symbolic gesture. It emphasizes to the national party that New York is in play, trading on the city’s historic selection of two successive Republican Mayors. And by relying on Mr. Giuliani, the man who led the city on and after Sept. 11, the Mayor is hoping that Republican decision-makers will remember how the rest of the nation embraced New York as rarely before.
Asked to comment on Mr. Giuliani’s appointment, Republican state chairman Sandy Treadwell told The Observer , “Mayor Giuliani has earned worldwide acclaim for his sensitive handling of the crisis. It is a very powerful statement on behalf of New York City.”
The choice works for both Mr. Bloomberg and Mr. Giuliani. For Mr. Bloomberg, who prides himself on choosing good people and then letting them do the work they’ve been assigned, the selection of his formidable predecessor is the ultimate act of delegating. For Mr. Giuliani, it’s the perfect post-Mayoralty role: He can act as an all-around pitch man for the city he led, even as he positions himself for a possible future in national Republican politics.
According to sources, Mr. Giuliani will play the key role in romancing the party’s site selectors when they visit the city to inspect convention facilities here. The Bloomberg administration’s formal bid for the convention-which would be the first ever held in New York by the G.O.P.-will be presented to the national party in mid-June.
Sunny Mindel, a spokesman for Mr. Giuliani, didn’t return calls for comment. Ed Skyler, a spokesman for Mr. Bloomberg, refused to comment.
Getting either convention, or both, would amount to a huge victory for Mr. Bloomberg, a self-made billionaire who prides himself on his ability to get deals done. If he wins the Republican convention, he will have succeeded in luring the national party to a place long viewed as hostile to the G.O.P. If he wins the Democratic convention, on the other hand, he’ll have transcended his current party affiliation (he was, until last year, a Democrat). Either convention would pump untold millions of dollars into the local economy, employ thousands of workers and send a message to the nation that the city has rebounded from the attacks.
Mr. Giuliani’s counterparts among the Democrats are Jonathan Tisch, the Loews Hotel chairman and top party fund-raiser, and Bob Rubin, Bill Clinton’s former Treasury Secretary, who are co-chairing City Hall’s efforts to win the Democratic convention. The Democrats have held three conventions in New York in the last quarter-century, in 1976, 1980 and 1992.
“If you look at the 1992 convention, it was a critical turning point for Democrats,” said Daniel Doctoroff, deputy mayor for economic development, who is playing a leading role in efforts to lure the conventions. “Bill Clinton’s walk to Madison Square Garden electrified a lot of people.”
The Bloomberg administration submitted a bid to the Democratic National Committee in March. The D.N.C.’s site-selection committee is scheduled to meet on May 22 to consider the bids of various cities. According to national party sources, the committee is expected to narrow down the choice to New York and three other cities: Boston, Miami and Detroit. The sources added that Democratic Party operatives were impressed with New York’s presentation, which included, among other things, a slickly produced video of Mayor Bloomberg making his sales pitch in Madison Square Garden.
The details of the bids are closely guarded by D.N.C. officials, but according to City Hall sources, the Bloomberg administration committed to raising $53 million to spend on a Democratic convention. One Washington Democrat described New York’s bid as “pretty fabulous.”
While it’s far too early to predict the likelihood of New York winning either convention,topDemocratic operatives say that the city has a good shot at winning their party’s nod. New York officials know the drill well, which means party strategists can expect smooth proceedings. And that counts for a lot. According to Maria Cardona, a spokeswoman for the D.N.C., the host city needs to be able to accommodate thousands of delegates, has to have up to 20,000 available hotel rooms, and must have the infrastructure to transport delegates to and from the convention-all the while providing heightened security in a post–Sept. 11 environment. It’s not an assignment for the unprepared or the inexperienced.
“New York has a successful track record,” said one senior Democratic official in Washington who is involved in the selection process. “And one of the things that’s important is that the city making the bid really wants it. There’s no question that New York really wants this-a broad coalition is supporting it. Tisch and Rubin are actively involved, and New York has a strong Congressional delegation that’s pushing for it.”
A Changed Landscape
The events of Sept. 11 have added a political dimension to these logistical calculations. “The backdrop of 9/11 changes the political considerations,” said Harold Ickes, a prominent Democrat who is informally advising the D.N.C. on the convention. “Ordinarily Democrats might say, ‘We’ve got New York locked; we don’t need the convention there.’ But after 9/11, New Yorkers might ask, ‘Are you spurning us, the city that has suffered the most? Or are you going to help us in our hour of need?’”
The calculus for Republicans is no less complex. The immediate goal of holding a convention here seems clear: It would highlight the post–Sept. 11 role of the G.O.P. in leading the city out of its bleakest hour.
“The defining moment of the Bush Presidency happened the Friday after Sept. 11, when President Bush stood on the flatbed truck and put his arm around that firefighter,” Mr. Treadwell said. “Where better to have a national convention to tell the terrorists that they will not win, they cannot win, they must not win, than New York City?”
Of course, the challenge for the G.O.P would be to stage the event without looking as if the party were trying to capitalize on the tragedy. Mr. Bush has already taken a beating for raising campaign cash by hawking photos of himself on the phone with Vice President Dick Cheney in the moments after the attack.
“It’s an important call,” noted one top Republican in Washington involved in the selection process. “But a lot of that risk is abated by the work that the Mayor is doing to win the Democrats. It takes politics out of it and makes it about the city’s interests.”
Bloomberg aides have been working hard to refine the pitch they will deliver in mid-June. Mayoral advisers hope to lure Republicans in part with the promise of financial support from Mr. Bloomberg’s extensive fund-raising network. According to sources, Mr. Bloomberg has been besieged by friends in the corporate community who are looking for ways to contribute cash to help stage the Republican convention in New York.
In political terms, New York has some stiff competition from other cities in the race for the Republican convention. There’s Chicago, which could help Republicans in the big Midwestern states with key blocs of Electoral College votes. There’s Miami, which could help Republicans take Florida, which is at risk because of the re-count fiasco. And Mr. Bush could decide he wants to return to his home state of Texas to launch his re-election campaign.
And so it has fallen to Mr. Bloomberg-and now, Mr. Giuliani-to make the case that New York is logistically and politically superior to these other cities. Republicans have long sought, with little success, to make Democrats invest resources to defend their hold on California, with its immense bloc of Electoral College votes. This time around, Republican strategists say, the big state to make a play for might be New York, which Republicans typically concede without a fight. If Mr. Bloomberg remains popular with liberal Democrats and minorities, if the city Democratic machine remains in disarray, and if Mr. Pataki has a strong victory in his re-election campaign next year, it might be possible, at the very least, to force Democrats to invest time and money here.
Bringing the convention to New York would be a big step in that direction. “It would be an easy way to keep the state in play and make it more difficult for the Democrats,” one top Democratic strategist conceded.
Whatever the outcome, all the maneuvering demonstrates that Sept. 11 has transformed the politics of conventions. Suddenly, each party has to consider whether it can risk allowing the opposition to hold its convention here and proclaim solidarity with post–Sept. 11 New York.
“We are in a unique point in the city’s history, where New York stands for much more than it has in the past,” Mr. Doctoroff said. “The values that New York exhibited in the wake of 9/11 are the values of America. We think that both political parties will want to capitalize on that.”