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Giuliani's campaign exploiting the fear factor

So what sort of presidential campaign do you run if you're too liberal for conservatives, too Republican for Democrats, and you drag along a personal life too messy for moderates?

So what sort of presidential campaign do you run if you're too liberal for conservatives, too Republican for Democrats, and you drag along a personal life too messy for moderates?

Rudy Giuliani has just answered that question: He'll be counting on the fear factor.

Giuliani has become the first Republican presidential candidate to enthusiastically embrace the Karl Rove strategy of scaring voters into becoming supporters. Campaigning in New Hampshire recently, Giuliani declared that if a Democrat were to be elected president in 2008, he (or she) would "wave the white flag" in Iraq, and the United States would suffer "more losses."

That strategy was key to President Bush's victory in 2004. The president and his surrogates painted Democrats as weak-kneed defeatists, appropriated the imagery of 9/11, and used all the tools of the presidency to frighten voters into believing al-Qaeda lurked just around the corner - waiting for the return of a Democrat to the Oval Office.

You remember that campaign, replete with frequent escalations of the threat matrix - yellow to orange, orange to red, red to vermilion.

Giuliani is best known as the mayor who rushed to the scene of the destruction at the World Trade Center on that awful Tuesday morning in 2001, standing bravely with firefighters and police officers, reassuring not only a devastated city but also a shaken nation whose president had disappeared from view. The iconography of 9/11 was bound to figure prominently in his campaign.

But the 9/11 connection also holds pitfalls for America's Mayor. As many New York analysts have pointed out, it was during Giuliani's tenure that the city opened a technologically sophisticated Office of Emergency Management in the World Trade Center complex, where it was useless after the terrorist strike because the entire area had to be evacuated.

It's a little tricky, then, for Giuliani to turn around and blame a Democratic president for failing to predict that terrorists might strike the World Trade Center a second time. (Islamist terrorists bombed the World Trade Center in 1993, killing six and injuring hundreds.)

He also presided over police and fire agencies that operated on different radio frequencies and were unable to communicate with each other at crucial times on that fateful day.

But what else does Giuliani have to work with besides fear? On the hot-button issues that arouse social conservatives, his record is decidedly liberal. He recently reaffirmed his support for federally financed abortions for poor women who cannot afford them. That's far down the left side of the political spectrum.

His post-mayoral business dealings may hold hazards for him, since they will come under increased scrutiny during the presidential campaign. His relationship with the now-discredited Bernard Kerik, former New York police commissioner, certainly will come back to haunt him.

And there was Giuliani's ugly divorce in 2002, which created waves even among world-weary New Yorkers. Then-wife Donna Hanover found out he was getting a divorce when he announced it during a news conference in 2000. And he tried to move his girlfriend, Judith Nathan - now his wife - into Gracie Mansion, the mayor's official residence, even though Hanover and their children were not ready to move out. Not since Ike Turner moved his mistress into the house he shared with Tina has a celebrity husband behaved so shabbily.

Still, fear could work in Giuliani's favor. Though a negative emotion, it is a powerful one - more powerful than hope and certainly more persuasive than reason. If another attack occurs on continental soil before Election Day, who knows how the politics will play out.

On the other hand, the voters may well have wised up to those tactics. How might President Bush put it: Scare me once, shame on you. Scare me twice . . . well, let's just say it will be harder to scare us again.