His own presidential aspirations flamed out in his inept 2008 campaign, but former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani has made a remarkable comeback eight years later as chief attack dog for fellow New Yorker Donald Trump.
On the campaign trail, Mr. Giuliani is the highest-profile defender of the GOP nominee, while also serving as a close adviser, and even making the trip last week to Mexico to meet with President Enrique Pena Nieto — Mr. Trump’s first foray into international diplomacy.
It’s a stunning reversal for Mr. Giuliani, who five months ago declined to endorse Mr. Trump, saying that while he would vote for the billionaire businessman, he wouldn’t appear as a surrogate.
Mr. Giuliani did end up endorsing Mr. Trump in late April, after the New York primary, and has been getting increasingly involved — and helping revive his own public persona.
“This is a campaign where there were many opportunities, if you were loyal for Donald Trump, to get more of the spotlight,” said Julian E. Zelizer, political science professor at Princeton University. Mr. Giuliani “kind of faded to a certain extent, so it is a big opportunity, and it is not a surprise that he would exploit it.”
Mr. Zelizer said Mr. Giuliani, who championed more moderate social stances during his own political career, likely sees in Mr. Trump a “New York kind of conservatism that really has not been the center of the party for a period of time.”
On the stump, Mr. Giuliani defended Mr. Trump’s muddled position on immigration, and delivered withering critiques of Hillary Clinton, describing the Democratic presidential nominee as “anti-military” and “anti-police,” and blaming her and President Obama for “totally ruining the Middle East.”
“Hillary Clinton is running on her experience as secretary of state,” he said at a recent rally. “Based on her experience as secretary of state, I wouldn’t hire her as the dog catcher of New York City.”
In a conference call Tuesday, Mr. Giuliani vowed to do whatever is in his power to bolster Mr. Trump’s chances of winning the November election.
“I believe very strongly he should be elected president, and I believe very strongly that Hillary Clinton should not be within 100 miles of the White House,” he said.
Mr. Giuliani had high hopes heading into the 2008 presidential election, but the widespread praise he received in the wake of Sept. 11, 2001, and his tough talk on terrorism and national security, were not enough to overcome lingering questions over whether he was too moderate on issues like immigration, gay rights and abortion for the Republican base. Also, his unconventional strategy of relying on the Florida primary as a launching pad to the GOP presidential nomination blew up in his face.
By the time the Florida primary rolled around, Mr. Giuliani’s poor showings in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina had zapped much of his campaign’s momentum.
He wound up finishing third in Florida, and the next day pulled the plug on his campaign, months after leading national polls — raising big questions about his political future.
Kevin Madden, a GOP strategist, said Mr. Giuliani’s new role within the Trump campaign appears to be a good fit for him.
“In many ways, Giuliani’s alliance with Trump is more comfortable than Giuliani’s courting of Republicans in 2008,” Mr. Madden said. “He was an odd fit for the party then. He was out of place in Iowa and South Carolina while going through the old caucus and primary rituals.”
“This Rudy seems like he sees in Trump the kind of campaign he wished he ran back then: pushing an aggressive and populist message instead of coloring inside the lines of party ideology,” he said.
At a campaign rally in Virginia Tuesday, Mr. Trump singled Mr. Giuliani out for recognition, describing him as a “great man” and casting him as a master turnaround artist based on his record as mayor from 1994 to 2001.
“He took a city that was a disaster, he took New York City and he made it great,” Mr. Trump said.