Frank Rich writes,

New Yorkers who remember Rudy Giuliani as the bullying New York mayor, not as the terminally cheerful “America’s Mayor” cooing to babies in New Hampshire, have always banked on one certainty: his presidential candidacy was so preposterous it would implode before he got anywhere near the White House.

Surely, we reassured ourselves, the all-powerful Republican values enforcers were so highly principled that they would excommunicate him because of his liberal social views, three wives and estranged children. Or a firewall would be erected by the firefighters who are enraged by his self-aggrandizing rewrite of 9/11 history. Or Judith Giuliani, with her long-hidden first marriage and Louis Vuitton ’tude, would send red-state voters screaming into the night.

Yet the Giuliani campaign springs back after every wound, like Rasputin. I admit, it’s making us nervous.

Rich goes on to snark about Judith Regan’s lawsuit against HarperCollins, which is juicy stuff. But I want to tie Rich’s column into something I read yesterday in the Boston Globe. Scott Lehigh wrote,

Massachusetts readers of the Sunday Globe may have choked on their coffee when they came across this finding in our new poll of New Hampshire: Granite State Republicans see Mitt Romney as the most trustworthy of the GOP candidates.

Certainly anyone who watched Romney retrofit his positions to run for president would find that a tad curious. Frankly, I might not have believed it either – had I not spent last Friday evening at an event in Hudson, listening to Romney and interviewing voters about him.

New York to Boston: Want to dish?

What’s more, voters I talked to didn’t particularly care that Romney has done some serious flip-flopping.

“Don’t they all?” said Loraine Battey of Hudson, who is undecided. “They say what people want to hear.”

“They all lie,” added Fred Taylor, a Hudson resident and Romney backer.

And the moral is, people see what they want to see.

The Giuliani campaign is particularly anxious to kneecap Romney support in New Hampshire, Lehigh says. So the Giuliani campaign is painting Romney as a flip-flopper and political poseur.

Well, if anyone would know political posing, it’s Giuliani. But why is it that so many voters get crushes on bad boys? Even voters like the above-quoted Fred Taylor, who know their candidate is a bad boy, still want to marry him. They seem to think once the knot is tied, the bad boy will become the man they want him to be.

At the Washington Post, Sridhar Pappu observes this phenomenon:

“When I talk to even Republican colleagues who run focus groups, you have these little old conservative ladies who say the most important issues are on abortion, on guns, on keeping taxes low,” says New York-based political consultant Joe Mercurio. “And when they ask these people who are you going to vote for they say Giuliani. I think a lot of people don’t care about Kerik and the marriages and living in a gay friend’s house, because they think he’s going to run against Hillary” Clinton.

Maybe he could defeat Hillary Clinton. But then we’d be stuck with Giuliani as President. America should just bend over and kiss its fanny goodbye. And Giuliani is George Bush with brains. You like cronyism? You like polarization? You like chief executives who think they are above accountability? Then Giuliani is your candidate.

My impression of Romney is that he’s not so much a bad boy as an empty suit; all packaging, no content. (But then, I haven’t spent that much time in Massachusetts.) But that makes him the perfect blank screen onto which voters may project their fears and ideals. And, I have to admit, he cleans up well. No wonder he’s leading the field at the moment.

Let’s skip back to the Frank Rich column. Here Rich is talking about the Wall Street Journal:

Fox News coverage of Ms. Regan’s lawsuit last week was minimal. After all, Mr. Giuliani dismissed the whole episode as “a gossip column story,” and we know Fox would never stoop so low as to trade in gossip. The coverage was scarcely more intense at The Wall Street Journal, whose print edition included no mention of the suit’s reference to that “senior executive” at the News Corporation. (After bloggers noticed, the article was amended online.) The Journal is not quite yet a Murdoch property, but its editorial board has had its own show on Fox News since 2006.

During the 1990s, the Journal editorial board published so much dirt about the Clintons that it put the paper’s brand on an encyclopedic six-volume anthology titled “A Journal Briefing — Whitewater.” You’d think the controversies surrounding “America’s Mayor” are at least as sexy as the carnal scandals and alleged drug deals The Journal investigated back then. This month a Journal reporter not on its editorial board added the government of Qatar to the small list of known Giuliani Partners clients, among them the manufacturer of OxyContin. We’ll see if such journalism flourishes in the paper’s Murdoch era.

But beyond New York’s dailies and The Village Voice, the national news media, conspicuously the big three television networks, have rarely covered Mr. Giuliani much more aggressively than Mr. Murdoch’s Fox News has. They are more likely to focus on Mr. Giuliani’s checkered family history than the questions raised by his record in government and business. It’s astounding how many are willing to look the other way while recycling those old 9/11 videos.

Damn liberal media.

One exception is The Chicago Tribune, which last month on its front page revisited the story of how, after Mr. Giuliani left office, his mayoral papers were temporarily transferred to a private, tax-exempt foundation run by his supporters and financed with $1.5 million from mostly undisclosed donors. The foundation, which shares the same address as Giuliani Partners, copied and archived the records before sending them back to New York’s municipal archives. Historians told The Tribune there’s no way to verify that the papers were returned to government custody intact. Mayor Bloomberg has since signed a law that will prevent this unprecedented deal from being repeated.

Journalists, like generals, love to refight the last war, so the unavailability of millions of Hillary Clinton’s papers has received all the coverage the Giuliani campaign has been spared. But while the release of those first lady records should indeed be accelerated, it’s hard to imagine many more scandals will turn up after six volumes of “Whitewater,” an impeachment trial and the avalanche of other investigative reportage on the Clintons then and now.

The Giuliani story, by contrast, is relatively virgin territory. And with the filing of a lawsuit by a vengeful eyewitness who was fired from her job, it may just have gained its own reincarnation of Linda Tripp.

We can hope.