- The Washington Times - Monday, May 8, 2000

NEW YORK It was, by all accounts, inevitable. In the very hour that Rudolph W. Giuliani told the world he had cancer, politicians, pundits and even knee-jerk anti-Rudy voters began talking about "the kinder and gentler" mayor of New York.

Suddenly, the two-term Republican that many New Yorkers love to hate, the take-no-prisoners, crime-busting lord of City Hall seemed bathed in a softer light. Perhaps he has "another side"; perhaps he wouldn't make such a bad candidate for U.S. Senate after all, goes much of the current wisdom.

"Mad-dog quality is replaced by gratitude," screamed a Page 1 headline in the New York Observer.

The New York Times reported that a sampling of undecided voters once "inching away from Mr. Giuliani" was looking at him with "new eyes" since he revealed that he had prostate cancer on April 27.

"It will make his political enemies nicer," declared a columnist in New York magazine, referring to the agents of first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, who announced her candidacy shortly after buying a house in a nearby suburb.

But by far the most intriguing news of the week a development that may further humanize the face of City Hall was the emergence of the mayor's new girlfriend, "a very good friend," according to Mr. Giuliani, who confirmed recent press sightings of New York's new first couple.

The mayor and Judith Nathan, 46, an Upper East Side divorcee, reportedly have been dating for about a year, having dinner together nightly and even holding hands in public.

Mr. Giuliani is married to Donna Hanover, a television personality and actress who leads an independent life and has not been seen by the mayor's side for years.

Political cynics suspect that the mayor's new romance may have been leaked to the press by his staff in the hope that sympathy generated by his illness would eclipse any criticism of this extra-marital liaison. However, some voters who support Mr. Giuliani are dismayed by his ready admission of romance, fearing that it could backfire and inject the question of mayoral character into the race.

"I'm really saddened by this," said Adele Keogh of Manhattan, a former Newsweek staffer. "This may complicate his chances more than the disease."

Meanwhile, Mr. Giuliani's public schedule is virtually blank as he undergoes more medical tests and ruminates over his possible candidacy. He is expected to announce his decision about running in the next two or three weeks. That conclusion will be governed by whatever course of treatment he requires for the disease, which reportedly was detected in its early stages.

While his campaign staff insist that fund raising is going full steam, there is an "on hold" feeling in the air. In Staten Island, for example, about 250 field people who worked for Sen. John McCain and are waiting to go to work for the mayor. According to Borough President Guy V. Molinari, it is difficult to schedule fund-raisers until they get a clear signal from the mayor. "Things are on hold," he said.

Meanwhile, the quiet authority with which the mayor has answered questions about his cancer, and even his girlfriend, seems to have worked in his favor. His poll numbers, once hemorrhaging, have stabilized. His image, once sullied by a rash of police shootings that cast him as cold-blooded enforcer, has been enhanced by intimations of mortality.

The mayor's closest advisers are spreading the word that he will most likely take on the race. One insider went so far as to say that even if Mr. Giuliani, 55, requires lengthy and debilitating treatment, a job in the Senate is less taxing than being governor because "it's only a five-hour day and he can run for governor later on."

Persistent speculation about the mayor's interest in the governor's job has been stoked by the possibility that he may not make the Senate run.

As for Mr. Giuliani's Democratic opponent, Mrs. Clinton, some pundits say, will certainly retract her campaign claws lest she be seen as attacking a sick man. However, some members of the mayor's inner circle worry that the president's wife might be more effective as a candidate if she sticks to issues and appears more senatorial.

Yet in recent days, Mrs. Clinton has assailed Mr. Giuliani for his support of Sen. Jesse Helms, North Carolina Republican, and his criticism of the Elian Gonzalez raid.

Also waiting in the wings for the mayor is Conservative Party Chairman Mike Long, who insists that Mr. Giuliani must renounce his support for partial-birth abortion and the support of the Liberal Party if he is to get the Conservative Party endorsement. The mayor, saying he wants conservative support, has threatened to seize the conservative nomination by forcing a party primary. "It's like being in a nightmare," said Mr. Long.

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