When Rudy Giuliani paid a visit to Broadway Grill in Burlingame last spring, he was the frontrunner in the race to capture the Republican nomination and riding high in the polls. (This poll from April 2007 gives a sense of his status at the time.)
As of Wednesday, he was out of the presidential race, his campaign having suffered a collapse of historic proportions.
There are lots of theories as to what happened, chief among them Giuliani’s unusual strategy of focusing on Florida rather than some of the earlier contests.
Two things that, in the Insider’s view, did not help his candidacy: the way his eyes would bug out every 15 seconds or so when he spoke on camera; and the relentless focus of his campaign on 9/11 and the fear of future terrorist attacks.
Other candidates talked about terrorism once in awhile; Rudy, in his ads and television appearances, seemed to be talking about it all the time. Kind of a drag, especially compared to candidates on the right and left (Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, e.g.) whose messages have been largely optimistic.
In talking to people who attended Giuliani’s appearance at the Broadway Grill, it was clear that he made a very strong impression on Sept. 11. In a time of vulnerability, people seem to have been imprinted with his performance that day.
Ana Cisneros, a manager at the grill who was a United Airlines flight attendant at the time of the World Trade Center attacks, illustrated this phenomenon.
“There’s a safety about him,” Cisneros said. “Something about him is warm and genuine.”
But ultimately the affection that many voters felt for him was not enough to keep Giuliani’s campaign afloat, for whatever reason. Maybe the bug eyes scared the voters off, maybe he wasn’t a natural campaigner, maybe the bad press he got before Christmas gave his campaign a downhill push that he just couldn’t overcome.
But we’ll always have the grill, Rudy. We’ll always have the grill.