Mingling With The Women to Help Her Man

"Mrs. G" began to take a larger role in her husband's presidential campaign at a Republican women's fundraiser in Washington. (By Joanne Amos -- Reflections Photography)
By Libby Copeland
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, November 17, 2007

Politics and Judi Giuliani have not always gone well together.

In recent months, as her husband's presidential campaign heated up, Giuliani was pilloried in the New York press as a social climber. A Vanity Fair profile accused her of demanding a separate seat on planes for her Louis Vuitton handbag. The former mayor's campaign started pulling her back from public events.

But as she proved yesterday during a women's fundraiser downtown, Judi Giuliani -- or "Mrs. G," as she called herself -- is most emphatically back.

"I look at these faces and they just energize me," she tells reporters. "I'm beginning to understand what my husband likes about politics."

She starts the event with a 10-minute speech mentioning husband Rudy's "tender heart." (She does look at her notes a lot. She does not, it must be noted, take a cellphone call from her husband in medias res.)

Mrs. G shakes hands until there are no more hands to shake. She poses for a yearbook's worth of pictures with a crowd brought together by the D.C. chapter of Women for Rudy. It's a mid-afternoon chatfest, nice and easy as surrogate appearances go. Then -- much to the surprise of a press aide, who had said Giuliani wouldn't be available for interviews -- she zooms over to chat with two reporters.

"I'm always a little bit nervous" about campaign events, she tells reporters, seeming not nervous at all.

Judi Giuliani, 52, looks far better in person than she does in print -- both literally and metaphorically. It is hard to square her personal presence, which is intensely -- almost fiercely -- amiable, with her reputation for imperiousness. (Did she get a bad rap? Are these traits two sides of the same coin? )

With her broad smile and a flair for the dramatic, she gabs to reporters about her "energizer bunny" husband and their upcoming trip to Miami for a NASCAR race ("We get to go down in the pit!" she says, sounding thrilled). And how every year on Thanksgiving, she and her husband host a breakfast at ESPN Zone in New York for police officers and firefighters affected by the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001. They're doing it again this year.

It's "one of the things Mrs. G stood firm about," she says, speaking in the third person.

She says the gold elephant brooch she is wearing on her purple suit jacket was a gift from Rudy during their first Christmas together.

That, of course, was a Christmas before they were married, when the mayor was still with his second wife, Donna Hanover. And then came the mayor's news conference to announce they were separating, which came as news to Hanover, and the public spat over whether the mayor's girlfriend should be allowed to visit Gracie Mansion. And then the wedding in 2003, at which she wore a tiara, of all things. And then more recently, the former mayor's son, Andrew, the best man at that wedding, revealed that his relationship with his father was strained, and that "there's obviously a little problem that exists between me and his wife."

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