For Giuliani, McCain is Now a Rival Worth Fighting With
For months this summer, Rudy Giuliani's operatives laid off of John McCain as his campaign tanked, ran out of money and seemed to be little threat to the frontrunner.
But that appears to be over.
On Friday, the two camps clashed as McCain became the only top Republican candidate to directly criticize the former mayor when his former police commissioner, Bernie Kerik, was indicted.
"Rudy Giuliani's history with Bernie Kerik is a story of poor judgment," said McCain campaign manager Rick Davis, in a statement. "A president's judgment matters and Rudy Giuliani has repeatedly placed personal loyalty over regard for the facts."
That apparently did not sit well inside the Giuliani camp, which responded with remarkable venom, considering their usual "we're the front-runner" restraint.
"Best as I can tell, it's just John McCain's pure desperation in the face of a failing and flailing campaign trumping his so-called straight talk," wrote Giuliani Communications Director Katie Levinson. "It is truly a shame that John McCain has chosen to stoop this low."
Earlier in the day, Levinson had gone after McCain over reports that the Arizona senator was receiving help from an independent group airing ads on his behalf, and that McCain was negotiating a loan to help finance his campaign.
"Let me get this straight - first, campaign finance crusader John McCain oversees a campaign that spiraled completely out of control and went bankrupt and now he wants a questionable $3 million loan?" Levinson wrote. "Doesn't quite pass the smell test, does it?"
The new tone aimed at McCain may indicate some fear among his rivals as McCain rises a bit in the polls. Recent national polls have McCain in either second or third place.
And campaign operatives well remember 2000, when McCain surged past front-runner George W. Bush in New Hampshire to nearly steal away the nomination. It's not impossible to think McCain has one more New Hampshire surprise left in him.
--Michael D. Shear
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