(AFP) – Dec 21, 2007
NEW YORK (AFP) — For US presidential hopeful Rudolph Giuliani, being admitted to hospital this week was just the latest setback in a campaign already suffering from slumping poll numbers and sleaze allegations.
And even though the Republican contender checked out of his St. Louis hospital on Thursday, less than a day after being admitted suffering from flu-like symptoms, questions remain surrounding the state of his health.
The former New York mayor emerged as an early favorite in the Republican race but has seen his campaign falter with just two weeks until the first nominating caucus votes in Iowa and New Hampshire states.
Giuliani has long been playing an unorthodox strategy, devoting fewer resources than other candidates to the two early states, apparently hoping he can bounce back in later rounds.
The 63-year-old former public prosecutor has pinned his hopes of success on the contests in the key state of Florida at the end of January and the more than 20 states that vote on "Super Tuesday" on February 5.
However, recent polls that a few weeks ago showed Giuliani comfortably leading have highlighted his weakness not only in Iowa and New Hampshire, where he trails in third or even fourth place, but also on the national picture.
The latest survey by polling institute Zogby this week had Giuliani maintaining the slimmest lead over former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, leading with 23 percent to Huckabee's 22-percent-showing nationwide.
The George Washington University Battleground poll meanwhile put Huckabee, a Baptist minister, ahead of Giuliani, with 24 percent of the vote to the former New York mayor's 22.
"The national poll numbers for him are troublesome," said Patrick Egan, assistant professor of politics at New York University.
"He's got a strategy where he claims he doesn't have to do well in either Iowa or New Hampshire. The interesting thing now becomes whether or not his national poll numbers keep him elevated enough to do well on 'Super Tuesday.'"
He said, however, that it was too early to speculate on how Giuliani's latest health scare could affect his campaign.
Questions surrounding Giuliani's health have lingered since he dropped out of the battle for New York senator in 2000 after being diagnosed with prostate cancer, ceding the race to Hillary Clinton, who is now the Democratic presidential frontrunner.
And despite Giuliani's communications director Katie Levinson insisting that the results of Thursday's hospital tests were all normal, health issues are likely to remain a question mark over the former mayor's campaign.
Allegations of wrongdoing have also plagued his White House bid.
Giuliani was last month accused of using the budgets of obscure New York City agencies while mayor to hide thousands of dollars in travel and security costs during an extra-marital affair with his now wife.
He vehemently denied the charges, an unwelcome reminder of a past some analysts believe could scupper his 2008 chances.
The allegations were not the first to be leveled at Giuliani. Last month The New York Times accused him of making "incomplete, exaggerated or just plain wrong" statements based on "a fusillade of statistics and facts."
It cited statements about crime rates and public spending during his time as New York mayor during the 1990s -- the keystone of his image as tough-on-crime and the hero who led New York through the September 11 attacks of 2001.
Another embarrassment for Giuliani came last month with the indictment of his one-time protege, Bernard Kerik, who Giuliani nominated for homeland security chief in 2004.
Giuliani's admission to hospital on Wednesday came at the end of a trying day on which his plane also broke down, according to the New York Times.
"When we got on the plane they said, 'Oh, one engine just went out,'" Giuliani reportedly told supporters. "We thought it was better not to take the airplane."
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