Queasy Giuliani Faithful Ask For Truth On Trips

He said that the process began well before Mr. Giuliani started seeing Ms. Nathan, was common practice among City Hall workers and was intended to circumvent the New York City Police Department, which was a bureaucratic nightmare.

“I can either give you the explanation and you can accept it, or you can see the black helicopters you want to see,” said Mr. Carbonetti. “If you would have wanted to hide it, you would have put it over at PD.”

So far, the explanation hasn’t stuck. Ray Kelly, New York’s current police commissioner, who also ran the department under former Mayor David Dinkins, has publicly contradicted Mr. Carbonetti’s characterization, saying that during his two stints as the head of the Police Department, “detectives assigned to the mayor’s security detail file all of their expenses through the department and they’re reimbursed through the department.”

And the reporter who broke the story, Ben Smith (who used to be a reporter for this newspaper), responded to Mr. Carbonetti’s assertions about not disclosing the nature of the story by showing The Observer a copy of the e-mail he sent to Ms. Mindel, in which he described the nature of the expenses that he found and explicitly pointed out that the trips to Southampton occurred while Ms. Nathan lived there.

“My main question,” Mr. Smith wrote in the e-mail, “is why these expenses were attributed to obscure agencies, and whether City Hall was trying to hide them.”

Some supporters continue—gamely, it must be said—to express confidence in the direction of the campaign, and in its handling of the recent, brutal news cycles.

“Anyone who has been involved in these campaigns in the past knows that you just go through these rocky things, you have to deal with them, and sometimes you just get stronger from having to deal with them,” said Barry Wynn, the chair of Mr. Giuliani’s South Carolina campaign and the former finance chair of President Bush’s reelection campaign. “Just look at the Clintons, and of course, I was in the Bush campaign, and whether it was the National Guard or this or that or drinking or whatever, you just can’t have good week after good week after good week.”

Dismissing attacks from the “Northeast press,” Mr. Wynn pointed to Mr. Giuliani’s strong poll numbers in South Carolina and said that the bad week was mostly a result of an absence of the issue of terror. >

“That is the key question that galvanizes a whole lot of support,” he said. “When that nerve is hit, people do not worry about divorces; they do not worry about perfection. People worry about the survival of the country.” Other supporters argued that the news would have little effect on voters who supported Mr. Giuliani because they felt he would keep American safe from terrorism.

“Everybody understands it’s election-year politics,” said Barron Thomas, a key fund-raiser for Mr. Giuliani in Arizona. “But people are focused on the big issues, that’s Iran and Iraq. If we start examining microscopic details that are really insignificant, it is really going to derail the big picture.”

The question here, then, is whether these details are truly insignificant.

Asked if New Hampshire voters would hold Mr. Giuliani accountable, Ms. Charbonneau said, “Sometimes they forget, and sometimes they don’t.”

Asked which of those things was going to happen in January, she said, “He’s going to have a problem.”