Swift Boating Rudy? Probably Won't Work.

First, why does the president of the new 9/11 Parents and Families of Firefighters and WTC Victims use the verb "swift boat?" To almost everyone, that verb implies an unfair tarnishing.

A coalition of 9/11 families and rescue workers plans to continue efforts to derail former Mayor Rudy Giuliani's bid for President at a midtown fund-raiser today.

The group will to use the same strategy that helped undermine 2004 Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry, whose service in Vietnam was challenged by the pro-Bush Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.

Well -- for months before the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ran its ads, the Bush Campaign had pounded the message that John Kerry was weak, vaccilating and effete; that he was not strong enough to handle the challenges of a post 9/11 environment; that he flip-flopped on the war. The SBVFT ads came on the scene as Republicans and Democrats were fully divided, in their own camps, energized and ready for partisan warfare.

The ads questioning Kerry's military record were specious and unfair, but they succeeding in generating reams of earned media. The second wave of ads were broadcast to a much broader audience and showed footage of Kerry questioning the conduct of American soldiers in Vietnam. Republicans say that the latter tranche of ads succeeded in moving the numbers.

Rudy Giuliani's relationship with the American people was cemented after 9/11, unfolded and grown in real-time, unmediated by partisans. It is extraordinarily difficult to convince Americans, who saw with their own eyes and heard with their own ears the leadership skills of Giuliani after 9/11 that he is somehow responsible for failing to stand up for firefighters and WTC families.

The Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ads were unfair but they reinforced a stereotype held by the political elites; the anti-Giuliani ads are at odds with the recieved wisdom, and therefore face much greater obstacles.**

The exception is in New York City, where Giuliani is less popular than he is almost everywhere else, a consequence of New Yorkers having spent years learning who Giuliani was and being able to judge his 9/11 performance in light of what happened before -- and after.