NEW YORK (AP) – Is there a curse on City Hall?

Rudy Giuliani this week became the latest victim of a political urban legend – that New York City mayors who aim for higher office will always miss.

Giuliani’s bid for the Republican presidential nomination collapsed after a stunning defeat in Tuesday’s Florida primary, where he had pinned all of his hopes as part of his unorthodox strategy of paying less attention to the smaller early-voting states.

The two-term mayor’s dramatic slide from the front of the presidential pack, where he was once the national front-runner, prompted renewed debate over whether the office is under a political spell.

The last New York City mayor who succeeded at ascending to higher office was John T. Hoffman, who won his bid for governor in 1869.

The last mayor to be elected to any office after serving in City Hall was Ardolph Loges Kline, who was briefly mayor in 1913 and later served as a U.S. congressman.

The notable losers in addition to Giuliani include John Lindsay, who ran for president in 1972 and failed to win the Democratic nomination. In 1982, Ed Koch made a run for governor but lost the Democratic primary, to Mario Cuomo.

Asked Wednesday about whether New York mayors are forever politically jinxed, Koch blamed it on divine intervention.

“God says, ‘Anyone who doesn’t appreciate that I’ve given you the best job in the country, and looks to go higher, I’m going to stop you,”‘ Koch said. “Why be greedy?”

Mayor Michael Bloomberg – an independent who is said to be seriously considering his own presidential run – was asked about the storied curse. He seized the chance to suggest that political candidates who haven’t been mayor are less prepared to govern.

A mayor, he said, is forced to “make decisions and to tell people where you stand on issues.”

“Those who run from other backgrounds have never had to go through that process of explicitly saying on the record what they stand for,” he added.

The billionaire was more pragmatic than Koch about the reasons for the defeats suffered by New York mayors, and somewhat hopefully dismissed the curse as nothing more than mathematical coincidence.

“I just think it’s a statistical fluke that mayors of New York City haven’t really gone on to other elected offices,” he said, “but mayors of New York City continue to go on and contribute.”

AP-ES-01-30-08 1644EST

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