The Daily News' Ben Smith looks at a possible stumbling block for Rudy Giuliani's presidential hopes. And it would be a big one. With September 11 fire responders falling ill and memos about the Giuliani administration opening downtown earlier, in spite of EPA warnings, becoming a bigger and bigger story this year, some who hope for "Giuliani 2008" are concerned that Rudy could be vulnerable, the way John Kerry was when the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth emerged in the last presidential election. Smith writes:

Many of the workers who spent time near Ground Zero, including at least one of his top aides, have come down with respiratory and other illnesses doctors link to the air quality following the attacks. Giuliani and former Environmental Protection Agency chief Christie Whitman have traded blame over the fact that more workers didn't wear respirators. But it was Giuliani's old rival, Sen. Hillary Clinton, who helped organize research into the health impact of the towers' collapse.

There's no "9/11 Families for Truth," no organized effort to damage Giuliani's national reputation. But the seeds of it may be sprouting. Sally Regenhard, whose firefighter son, Christian, died on 9/11, told the Daily News' Errol Louis that she intends to "swift boat" Giuliani.

"There's a large and growing number of both FDNY families, FDNY members, former and current, and civilian family members who want to expose the true failures of the Giuliani administration when it comes to 9/11," said Regenhard, who, citing a recent book by Wayne Barrett and Dan Collins, blames Giuliani for 9/11 communications breakdowns. The city's police and fire union presidents are also openly hostile to Giuliani, and agreed on New York 1 News recently that he shouldn't be called "America's Mayor."

Yowch! Still, there's some suspicion about why these allegations are coming now, as Giuliani is presumably thinking about 2008. At any rate, we're not totally convinced Rudy would win the Republican nomination in 2008, but if the options are Pataki or Giuliani, then he's a shoo-in.