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In mid-December of 2007, a Fox News poll showed Rudy Giuliani leading the Republican pack for the nomination. He'd held that lead throughout the previous year, and although his margin had narrowed, many Democrats feared that he'd be the most formidable contender. Instead, his campaign imploded. His dubious associations sullied his reputation, his erratic decision-making undermined his chances, and his egocentrism prevented him from recognizing and rectifying any of this.
There remains a tremendous store of goodwill toward Rudy in the Empire State. It probably wouldn't outlast the rough-and-tumble of another campaign. Bloomberg has governed the city more effectively and with vastly less drama, rendering Giuliani's accomplishments smaller in hindsight. Complaints about his cronyism - exemplified in the person of Bernie Kerik - have gone from insiders' gossip to tabloid headlines. And every new revelation has rendered his personal life a little more despicable.
Early polling says more about name recognition and the incumbent than it does about the challenger. Gillibrand trailed Rudy because she hasn't managed to win over the electorate to her side. But in a drawn-out race, she couldn't wish for a better opponent. She's no more popular this morning than she was yesterday. But suddenly, she faces the prospect of running against a Republican who could grow more popular as the public gets to know him, instead of one weighed down by decades of baggage. There's no one who should be more disappointed by today's announcement than Kirsten Gillibrand.