Giuliani Campaign Tries to Minimize Fallout From Kerik Indictment

By Juliet Eilperin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Aides to former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani worked yesterday to bat down the perception that his bid for the Republican presidential nomination had suffered after Friday's indictment of Bernard B. Kerik, his longtime ally and former business partner.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) used the indictment to question the judgment of Giuliani, who recommended that President Bush appoint Kerik to head the Department of Homeland Security. At a news conference with former homeland security secretary Tom Ridge, McCain emphasized that Giuliani should have begun questioning Kerik's public service qualifications after he failed to adequately train the Iraqi police force in 2003.

"Supposedly his mission was to help train Iraqi police. He stayed a couple of months, got up and left," McCain said. "That should have been part of anybody's judgment before they would recommend that individual to be head of the Department of Homeland Security."

McCain campaign manager Rick Davis issued an even more pointed assessment in a memo: "A president's judgment matters and Rudy Giuliani has repeatedly placed personal loyalty over regard for the facts."

Other rivals used the opportunity to point out that Giuliani, who retains a consistent lead in nationwide polls, is not invincible.

Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney declined to comment on whether Kerik's legal woes might pose a political problem for Giuliani, but he called Kerik's indictment on tax fraud and other charges "very sad and disappointing" and added: "You expect people who assume the public trust to abide by it and to live by high standards of ethical conduct."

In an e-mail sent yesterday to reporters, Romney spokesman Kevin Madden started the message with "Mayor Giuliani's 'momentum-proof' national polling lead, Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny all walk into a bar. . . . You're right. None of them exist."

The flurry of attacks underscores both the fluidity of the Republican race and a potential vulnerability for Giuliani.

"Giuliani has a clear lead. It isn't as dominant as Hillary Clinton's lead on the Democratic side, but it's a clear lead," said GOP pollster David Winston, who is not affiliated with any campaign. "Obviously when you have a front-runner and these problems emerge, people are going to use this to dislodge you."

Giuliani's campaign sought to remain on offense yesterday, holding a conference call with reporters in which campaign manager Michael DuHaime and strategy director Brent Seaborn outlined how their candidate could win even if he did not emerge victorious in early-voting states such as Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

DuHaime told reporters "there are multiple paths to victory," in large part because 1,038 of the nearly 1,200 delegates needed for the nomination will be up for grabs on Feb. 5. Giuliani, DuHaime said, holds strong leads in several of those states, including New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

"And everyone seems to be, obviously, focused on the traditional path of winning the early states and then having momentum throughout," he said. "I think what we see is there's a possibility of two paths. And obviously, we agree that there's the ability for the momentum that comes out of early states, or we wouldn't be as focused as we are on some of the early states. But we also recognize that, with so many large, delegate-rich states moving up to so early in the process, that it's impossible to think that it will be over after only three states vote."

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