The last thing Rudy Giuliani needed was to make a laundry list of the vulnerabilities that threaten to derail his pursuit of the Republican Presidential nomination.
After all, everyone paying close attention to Presidential politics knows about his liberal stance on social issues, his two divorces, his marriage to a former mistress and his nettlesome relationship with Bernard Kerik, a scandal-laden former aide.
But list them is exactly what Mr. Giuliani’s nascent campaign did, complete with bullet points, in a 140-page binder of printed pages, handwritten notes and spreadsheets that outlined in detail his Presidential bid’s secret fund-raising and campaign plans.
That document, published this week after being given to the Daily News by “a source sympathetic to one of Mr. Giuliani’s rivals,” says that the myriad challenges facing Mr. Giuliani amount to potentially “insurmountable” vulnerabilities that could eventually force him to “drop out of (the) race.”
Not surprisingly, the Giuliani dossier has become Topic A of conversation among the G.O.P.’s major operatives and fund-raisers, complicating Mr. Giuliani’s now very public plan to raise at least $100 million in 2007 and $25 million in the next three months. The binder, which the Daily News speculated had been put together by Mr. Giuliani’s fund-raiser Anne Dickerson, targeted as its “prospective leadership” several major Republican donors who have already signed up with Arizona Senator John McCain.
“This is not a good day for His Honor,” said Mark Corallo, a Republican strategist and former spokesman for Karl Rove who is not currently affiliated with any of the prospective ’08 candidates. “You never want to lose control of your information—and unfortunately for them, they lost control of their information.”
The fallout from the Daily News story, which ran under the headline “Rudy Loses Prez Plans,” immediately rippled through Mr. Giuliani’s camp and the field of likely Republican candidates.
(Coincidentally, the reporter who broke the story for the News, Ben Smith, announced on Tuesday that he was leaving to join the staff of The Politico, a new, Washington-based publication that will be focusing with laser-like intensity on the 2008 Presidential campaign.)
On Tuesday afternoon, Mr. Giuliani’s spokeswoman, Sunny Mindel, released a statement asserting that the document was stolen from a staffer’s luggage as Mr. Giuliani campaigned around the country before the midterm elections.
“Because our staffer had custody of this document at all times except for this one occasion, it is clear that the document was removed from the luggage and photocopied,” said Ms. Mindel. “Voters are sick and tired of dirty tricks.”
Barron Thomas, a former Bush fund-raising “Pioneer” who is committed to Mr. Giuliani, took that theory a step further, implying that the dossier was stolen by the camps of Mr. McCain or another potential rival, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.
“This is a horserace with three thoroughbreds coming down the finish line,” Mr. Thomas said. “I think it was pilfered and it was leaked intentionally, and whoever really was behind it—if it ever comes out, it will be really damaging for them.”
Some of Mr. McCain’s supporters openly doubted that explanation.
“My guess is that a staffer got tired and sloppy, and that happens,” said Jim Nicholson, a Bush “Ranger” in 2004 who was courted by Mr. Giuliani before signing up with Mr. McCain. “If I lost it, I sure as hell wouldn’t want to admit it. I can’t see any other campaign stalking and stealing a notebook. I think they should just say it got lost and move on.”
And despite the Giuliani camp’s indignation, Mr. McCain’s campaign couldn’t resist some mild gloating.
John Weaver, a chief political strategist to Mr. McCain, said that the emergence of the document proved the political wisdom of the adage “Don’t put pen to paper” and, referring to Giuliani Partners, the former Mayor’s consulting company, he added, “I thought it was a security company.”
(According to the Daily News, the Giuliani document also listed Mr. Giuliani’s private-sector business as a potential vulnerability.)
Mr. Weaver called the Giuliani camp’s accusations of theft “ridiculous” and said, “If I were them, I would search in the grassy knoll.”
And Mr. Weaver said that none of the in-house analysis offered in the document was startling to political observers, in and of itself.
“There is nothing in there that is particularly surprising to me other than the nature by which it became public,” said Mr. Weaver.
On that score, at least, some of Mr. Giuliani’s key supporters agreed.
“Everything I have heard is stuff I have been hearing for months and reading for months,” said Barry Wynn, the former chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party who was finance chair of President George W. Bush’s re-election campaign. “These are incredibly rehashed stories. The fact that the Mayor’s divorced is not going to be a scoop to anybody.”
Still, added Mr. Wynn, who has been one of the most outspoken backers of Mr. Giuliani’s potential candidacy for President, “I am not sure why you would write that down.”
Mr. Romney’s campaign office didn’t return calls for comment.
It is the friendly-fire nature of the document that may prove most damaging to Mr. Giuliani. That the former Mayor’s own fund-raisers and aides compiled the list of Mr. Giuliani’s political and personal flaws gives the persistent conventional wisdom about his weaknesses a stamp of authenticity. The mere mention of Mr. Giuliani potentially dropping out of the race only reinforces what more than one major fund-raiser said is a real concern: that Mr. Giuliani isn’t completely committed to running and that he is in part exploring a bid to further his business interests.
Several Republicans strategists said that the loss of such a sensitive document could scare off prospective donors and staffers in the thick of the recruiting phase of the race, because it raises doubts about the sophistication of his political operation. In one section, the dossier urges Mr. Giuliani to pursue major G.O.P. fund-raisers who have since signed up with Mr. McCain, such as New York financier Henry Kravis and Larry Bathgate.
In a phone interview, Mr. Bathgate indicated that the relative stability of the McCain bid was a factor in his ultimate decision.
“I have positive feelings about my friendship with people like Rudy Giuliani, but if you are going to be involved in the game, you have to make a decision,” said Mr. Bathgate. “And I have made a decision to go with John McCain.”
While Mr. Giuliani does enjoy the support of such major donors as T. Boone Pickens, a Texas oil baron, and Thomas Hicks, an owner of the Texas Rangers, some fund-raising veterans think that names printed in the dossier could provoke dissent in the ranks.
“It makes people that have come on board ask if they are part of a second-tier team,” said one major fund-raiser to Mr. McCain.
“It doesn’t get much uglier than this memo,” added an unaffiliated Republican operative. “It is an unmitigated disaster.”
Mr. Giuliani’s supporters, for now, are putting the best face on the situation.
“Anybody involved at this point with the Mayor is not going to be affected by something like this,” said Mr. Wynn. “You are going to have a lot of bad days, and the real test of a campaign is to be able to suck it up and go through the gantlet.”
“I think McCain is the front-runner, and so any day that his opponents have glitches maybe widens that lead a bit,” said Mr. Wynn. “But I just don’t think that this is an issue that is going to be around a week from now or two weeks from now.”
Naturally, some of Mr. McCain’s financial supporters have a different take.
“It shows that, potentially, he does not have a first-class team,” said Georgette Mosbacher, a major Republican fund-raiser who has signed up with Mr. McCain. “You are running for President; you don’t leave things like that around. That doesn’t happen.”
Another prominent McCain supporter, Fred Malek, who ran the elder Bush’s Presidential campaign in 1992 and was a partner of the current President in owning the Texas Rangers, said, “It is clearly an embarrassment and somewhat of a setback, but there is probably very little in their evaluation that experienced observers haven’t already thought about.”
He added, “It does underline that the best and the brightest and the most experienced in the political field are making a choice and already enlisted with John McCain.”