A Kinder, Gentler Rudy?

How Rudy Prepared for His Bad-News Press Briefing

In the aftermath of the cancer revelation, Rudy did the town hall meeting Thursday night, Saratoga Springs Friday night, and Buffalo Saturday. He differed with Hillary Clinton at the Independence Party convention on Saturday, indicating his willingness to appear on the same ticket with a cancerous presidential candidate, Pat Buchanan. He golfed with 14-year-old Andrew on Sunday. His public comments—about Elián and everything else—have been so mild no one's quoting them. He also revealed with relief that hours more of bone and other tests confirmed the cancer was contained. He said he would spend some of this week interviewing doctors and contemplating options.

His campaign had a 2-million-piece mailing all set to go when the biopsy result came in. He's already spent $5 million on prior national mailings and this one, too, undoubtedly carried a big price tag. Second-time solicitations are usually far more cost-effective, because you're hitting folks who've already given a little, and might want to give again. The timing of the mailing—and the millions it may bring in—are hardly irrelevant to the calendaring of Rudy's future medical/political announcements.

Conservative Party leader Mike Long gave him a get-well call on Thursday and a get-out message on Monday, when the Times reported that longtime Long sidekick, Westchester's ex-congressman Joe Dioguardi, might be the Senate candidate of his and the Right-to-Life parties. George W. Bush told cameras that Rudy assured him he would "absolutely" stay in the race, and they've been very close ever since Bush announced a few days earlier that he would "absolutely" not do any commercials for Giuliani's Senate race.

Whether Rudy runs or not is the question on every tongue tip. The big May media buy—estimated at $750,000—looks like a signal that he's staying in, but it could also raise his numbers enough so that he won't look like a loser when he pulls out. Running amid surgery or radiation certainly offers him an explanation if he loses, and may give him the humanizing impetus to win.

If this crisis allows him to put his family back together, he may want to concentrate on that for a while, salt the campaign loot away, and ready himself for Albany in 2002. If he thinks he can mend the family wounds quickly, the thought of running with Donna at his side may push him to stay in. Her decision this Monday to pull out of The Vagina Monologues—which was scheduled to debut the same day in May that he would be nominated for the U.S. Senate—may be the first opening of that slammmed-shut door in years.

He packed enough venom into the two weeks before his announcement to last most lifetimes. It could hardly be attributed to anxieties about the PSA test, since his explosions were par for the course, memorable only in light of what we now know about the secret of those days. He is a better actor than his wife and he may believe he can play a new, professionally vulnerable Rudy until November with or without Donna. It is also possible that this mortality lesson is genuinely changing him, and that he will not merely mutate politically.

His Senate-race decision is as tough a choice as he has ever faced and he will make it with destiny, as much as doctors, whispering in his ear.

With special reporting by Jennifer Warren

Research assistance: Nicole Gesualdo

« Previous Page