Political Fortunes Of Mayor, Gov, Rudy Tied To Convention Appearances
There’s no doubt that the four-day Republican National Convention at Madison Square Garden had only one star—President George W. Bush, here to be nominated for a second term—as the rest of the speakers played their supporting roles by heaping praise upon praise on the party’s standard bearer in the crucial November elections as they took turns at the podium.
But political pundits set three of those in the GOP supporting cast—Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Governor George Pataki, and former Mayor Rudy Giuliani—apart from the others by virtue of their prominence in this, the host city.
For Bloomberg, who must stand for re-election next year, his prominent role as convention host can have a direct bearing on his mayoral fortunes in 2005 since he fought so hard to bring the conclave here for the first time in history.
For Giuliani and Pataki, their convention roles placed them before a national audience, sparking talk of possible attempts to run for national office in the future.
Bloomberg, by virtue of having so publicly lobbied for the convention, has placed himself in a particularly vulnerable position.
He can benefit if, in the final analysis, all his predictions about reaping economic gains from the influx of some 50,000 tourists, including some 5,000 delegates, come to pass.
But at the moment, there seems little prospect of that because of the huge anti-Bush protests and the enormous security burden the convention and the protests have created. Fortunately, the protests staged over the weekend before the opening of the convention on Monday, were handled well by the police, and no major riots broke out.
However, as this is written, on Tuesday, the convention still has two days to run. Hopefully there will not be a repeat of the mayhem which broke out in 1968 during another presidential convention, that one in Chicago.
But all the warnings about the protests in the weeks preceding the convention and the strategic security moves that would be taken to keep the protestors in check could easily have had a chilling effect on peoples’ movements, including those of delegates and other people who were here visiting with them. This, of course, would tend to limit spending from this group of visitors, hurting the prospect of economic gains that had been foreseen by the mayor.
The mayor consistently downplayed the impact of the negative development and steered away questions posed by the media. Everything was fine, he has said repeatedly. But a Quinnipiac University poll showed a majority of residents surveyed felt the convention was disrupting the city’s usual business, supported protesters’ right to demonstrate in Central Park, and opposed questioning of demonstrators by the FBI.
The poll also showed Bloomberg's approval rating had dropped 5 percentage points from 49 percent since last month. The poll results were issued the Thursday before the convention opened.
The speculating will be over in a few days and we’ll know then whether the mayor is a winner or a loser because of his convention gambit.
Giuliani had the advantage of making a prime time address Monday evening. He also came into the convention at as popular a level as in the post-September 11 attack period, and his identification with that tragic event provided a boost for Bush, who has made the war on terror one of his main platform planks.
Giuliani has been mentioned as a possible candidate for president four years from now, as a United States senate opponent of incumbent Hillary Rodham Clinton, and as a sure bet in Bush’s next cabinet, if he wants a position there.
Congressmember Peter King, a Republican from Long Island, sized up Giuliani as a superstar in a recent interview, and that’s the way he was greeted Monday night as he gave his address.
Giuliani’s mission was to highlight the president’s key role in the war on terrorism, which he did extremely well by recalling his own role as well as that of the president in directing the city in the post-attack period. He was interrupted many times by loud and sustained applause as he described the president’s anti-terrorism agenda.
The ex-mayor noted that Bush had on Sept. 20, 2001, nine days after the World Trade Center attacks, “changed the direction of our ship of state and dedicated America under his leadership to destroying global terrorism.”
Although the president has often been attacked for following this policy, Giuliani said, he has remained “rock solid” in this commitment. He contrasted the president’s tenacity with Kerry’s, saying the Democratic presidential candidate “has no such clear, precise and consistent vision.” The audience applauded and cheered wildly.
Overall, Giuliani’s spirited performance was excellent. His emotions crept into the speech, much to the audience’s appreciation. His reception by the delegates dovetails with the results of recent polls, which show he has great support among voters nationwide. However, the former mayor plays down any suggestion that he has plans to run for anything soon, saying he wants to wait until this election is over.
It’s amazing that such a controversial public official as Giuliani is as popular today as he was when he left office three years ago, forced out by term limits. As his campaign forays with Bush show, he’s as popular with party leaders as he is with the rank and file. If he can maintain that momentum for another four years, he will have a very credible chance of becoming the GOP candidate for president in 2008. He would have a large following plus the campaign funding he would need. His tremendous reception Monday night attests to this.
Meanwhile, despite being unable to pass his own budget for the past two years, a sign of weakness and futility, there are reports that Pataki is considering running for president in 2008 and has not ruled out running for a fourth term in Albany, according to this week’s edition of Newsweek magazine.
However, Pataki, during his eight years plus at the helm of New York state government has clashed repeatedly with the party’s conservative wing as well as the state Conservative Party. Thus his Republican credentials have been placed in question by his positions on abortion rights, his signing legislation for civil rights for gays and being a free-spending chief executive.
Pataki will also be in the very favorable position of speaking at the convention in prime time, his purpose being to introduce the president so Bush can accept the nomination. In fact, some political observers say he was more favorably placed than Giuliani by those running the convention, given the fact that the delegates will be totally hyped in anticipation of Bush’s acceptance speech and some of this will rub off on Pataki. We shall see tomorrow night.
DEMS BUSY, TOO: While the spotlight has been on Bush and the convention delegates for the past two days, and will remain on them for the next two, the Democrats have been busy rebutting what has been going on at Madison Square Garden.
Among the rebutters will be the state’s Democratic senators, Charles Schumer and Hillary Rodham Clinton, and Harlem Congressmember Charles Rangel. In addition, Senator John Kerry, the Democratic nominee, has continued to campaign while the convention is in session, giving him a chance to respond to the statements being made at the Republican gathering.
VALLONE TO HASTERT GIVE BACK FDNY CAP: Responding to House Speaker Dennis Hastert, the Illinois Republican who asserted that after the 9/11 attack, Democratic lawmakers made the tragedy into “a dollars and cents thing,” City Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. (D–Astoria) stated:
“Those of us who are defending this city and this country against acts of terrorism are unfortunately forced to deal with the dollars and cents of pulling themselves out from under the rubble of past attacks and the dollars and cents of preventing future attacks on this country.
“Speaker Hastert didn’t scream ‘money grab’ when he secured over $1 million in grants from the Homeland Security Department to hire more cops in his district. I want to let Hastert know we want our FDNY cap back.”
The cap had been given to Hastert when he toured Ground Zero shortly after the World Trade Center attack, Vallone explained.
Congressmember Carolyn Maloney (D–Queens/Manhattan) said Hastert was off base because federal dollars sent to bail out New York City after 9/11 went to rescue workers, small business owners, and parents of school children. She stated:
“People who say it was a money grubbing game or that it was an unseemly scramble for dollars do not understand the depths of the suffering people experienced, the real human needs that still exist today because the federal response has been lackluster.
“Instead of hurling accusations, we should be doing what we did after 9/11, being united and working to solve these problems.”
WEINER: BUSH FAILS ON TRANSPORTATION ISSUE: In his fourth in a series of reports critiquing Bush’s actions on certain issues, Congressmember Anthony Weiner (D–Queens/Brooklyn) charged New York City would lose $9.2 billion for subway, road and bridge projects because of the president’s policies.
Weiner said several major projects are underway in the five boroughs, “but President Bush and his Republican allies in Congress are trying to shrink transportation funding for New York City. If the president has his way, funding for New York City subways, roads and bridges will be dramatically reduced.”
Weiner added: “No city in the country depends more on mass transit than New York City. But Bush and his Republican allies in Congress have plunged our most important transportation projects into uncertainty. Instead, they are doing what they do best, taking federal dollars away from the city and spending [them] where [they don’t] doesn’t need to go.”