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Romney’s no Giuliani

Campaign events as good as the one Republican Mitt Romney held on Tuesday in the North End happen less than a handful of times in a political cycle. Romney had a big-name celebrity by his side — former New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani. He had perfect weather — a crisp, blue-skied autumn day in the low 60s. And he had a great setting — the quaint and picturesque streets of the North End, complete with cannoli shops and neighborhood residents who just happen to worship the New York mayor.

Giuliani and Romney made their way up Hanover Street through a gauntlet of cheering supporters. A Republican operative tried to rally the crowd with a cheer of " Mitt and Rudy, " but the simpler " Rudy-Rudy-Rudy " won out. The pair visited neighborhood landmarks, such as Caffe Vittoria and Mike’s Pastry. Adoring supporters mobbed Giuliani — some demanding autographs, others snapping photos of the mayor, who has become a national icon since the September 11 attacks. At one point, a Romney supporter greeted the gubernatorial candidate and handed him a camera. Romney then photographed the man standing with Giuliani. The things people do for votes. Somebody in the crowd even brought a massive mural that depicted Ground Zero, the New York Fire Department, and the events of September 11. Giuliani, who is currently promoting his aptly titled memoir, Leadership (Miramax), posed in front of that too.

The only trouble with all the hoopla was that Giuliani’s powerful presence seemed to overshadow the man he came to Boston to endorse. At a short rally near the Paul Revere statue, Giuliani tried to talk Romney up. " He’s somebody who takes charge. He’s somebody who takes over. He has all the qualities that you would want in a very fine executive officer, which is after all what you’re electing in a governor, " said Giuliani. " He proved that in the way he ran the Winter Olympics under really horrible circumstances, both when he took over and then after what happened. "

Nice try, Mr. Mayor. But Romney doesn’t even come close to what Giuliani was when he ran a second time for New York mayor in 1993. Nobody says Romney lacks stellar credentials — either in the private sector, where he made millions of dollars, or with the Olympics, which he helped get back on track. But there is a certain amorphous, blob-like aspect to Romney’s political persona that Giuliani never possessed. Can anyone imagine Giuliani sending a letter to a local newspaper asking not to be " labeled pro-choice " but then refraining from giving his opinion on this difficult issue?

The pre-mayoral Giuliani was a snarling, Manichean figure who won office, in part, by taking unpopular positions. Here was a GOP candidate running for mayor of New York City who offended the entire editorial board of the Wall Street Journal by ordering the arrest of financial big shots for insider trading — and then having law-enforcement officers parade the plutocrats through lower Manhattan in what amounted to a high-profile perp walk. Talk about a corporate-responsibility hawk. Giuliani lost to David Dinkins in 1989 but won four years later when Dinkins’s " glorious mosaic " went up in smoke after the Crown Heights riots.

How, exactly, is Romney like Giuliani? Asked that question, Giuliani did his best: " This is somebody you can vote for and not have to worry can he do the job. He can handle it. He’s already demonstrated it. " Well, is he as tough as Giuliani? " I’m sure he’s even tougher, " said the former New York mayor. But even Romney himself wouldn’t stand for this. " No one’s as tough as the mayor, " he said, talking over Giuliani.

Romney is at least a couple of things he claims to be. He’s a fiscal conservative. He seems to be committed to keeping tax rates low. But he doesn’t sound credible when he says — as he did Tuesday — that he wants to do everything he can to attract corporations to Massachusetts, but then explains that he’s not talking about giving them special tax breaks, the usual way to attract these companies. He seems to be fairly committed to the popular ballot question that would end bilingual education in Massachusetts. On the whole, however, Romney seems to want to be all things to all people more than he wants to be a Giuliani-style, no-nonsense, governmental leader. As hard as Hizzoner tried, even he couldn’t convince us Romney is that.

Issue Date: October 10 - 17, 2002
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