Had you been surfing the channels of US television this weekend you would have seen the beaming face of New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani during the ad breaks, hailing 'the New York miracle'. 'Be part of it,' he says, urging his city - and country - to get back on its feet. Scanning a newsstand it was the same. His image stares up from dozens of titles, from New York magazine to Cigar Aficionado, which has this month hailed him 'Captain Courageous'. After an honorary knighthood from Buckingham Palace, historic speeches to the United Nations and constant applause at home, Rudy fever is showing no signs of letting up as the weeks pass since September 11. Rarely has a US political figure, especially one as controversial, enjoyed such a bright and long political sunset as Mr Giuliani. He is such a part of the American scene that it is hard to believe he is preparing to leave office following the mayoral elections last week. His new stature is certain to make running the US' biggest, richest and most international city all the more difficult for winner Michael Bloomberg. Not only must Mr Bloomberg deal with the hard issues arising out of September 11 - a city plunging into recession as well as a budget crisis - he must somehow shape Mr Giuliani's office in his own image. Even his victory over early favourite Mark Green was helped by a late endorsement from the man UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan described as 'Mayor of the World'. It is tempting to see Mr Giuliani as the right person for the worst moment in New York's history. Brooklyn born, Long Island raised and made in Manhattan, few public figures displayed such an instinctive feel for the city's pulse. The son of a lowly mob-enforcer with relatives in its public services, Mr Giuliani rose to prominence as a tough anti-Mafia prosecutor, responsible for key victories against some of New York's most entrenched crime families. A hard-driving Republican who has survived politically in an outwardly Democrat city, he is a New Yorker to his fingertips. Certainly more so than former first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York's out-of-town senator, who found herself booed off the stage at one recent charity rock concert for victims of the attacks. By turns showing compassion, courage and command, Mr Giuliani has led New York through some frantic days. He marshalled the rescue effort, then led the mourning and is now, with perfect political pitch, taking the lead in helping it pick up the pieces and move on. Many of his simple, clearly expressed thoughts and emotions resonate beyond the mountain of sentiment spouted elsewhere in the wake of the disaster. He went to the public funerals with many city elders but also took time out to go to the long-planned weddings of victims' relatives, smiling as he led young women down the aisle, quietly reminding people that life must go on. He repeatedly toured Ground Zero in private, offering constant encouragement to rescue workers facing a task they knew was hopeless. 'Life is risky,' he said two weeks after the attacks on the World Trade Centre. 'You can decide to live your life afraid of what is happening, or you can decide to live your life the way Americans live their lives, which is unafraid.' The statement was buttressed by his actions on the day itself. Alerted during a breakfast at the Peninsula Hotel in Mid-town, Mr Giuliani darted into the path of danger to a command post south of Barclay Street. He was close enough to see people falling from the World Trade Centre's upper floors. Some of the officials he stood with later perished. Following advice, he retreated just up the road to a larger control area still just two blocks away. Images of him emerging from the basement of a nearby police station covered in grime and dust after the collapse resonate still. They have helped erase some recent blemishes, such as a short-lived attempt to change local laws to allow him to stand for a third term - a classic of the Giuliani political canon. A similar bid to have his term extended was similarly scotched. This contradictory array of qualities was on display long before September 11, but often focused in different directions, sparking controversy and winning him a reputation for political toughness. He directed his compassion towards the city's police rather than the minority victims of repeated claims of brutality by officers, leading to stormy relations with some inner-city communities. His firm principles, wit and tenacity helped him stand fast in his drive to drastically lower crime rates and clean up the streets through tough policing and enforcement of by-laws. He even got rid of the gaggles of poor men washing car windows at intersections. He has succeeded - but New Yorkers will debate for years whether to credit his hard-boiled policies, or the years of soaring economic growth, for what has been achieved. His detractors claim he has turned New York into a sanitised American Singapore. But few actually seem to prefer the bad old days. Like him or hate him, he was effective and hard-working. Mr Giuliani was determined to fight on the national stage, eyeing a Senate run against Mrs Clinton last year. Prostate cancer forced him to pull out, denying him a long-held ambition and Americans the prospect of a political battle that would undoubtedly have upstaged Bush versus Gore. Some insiders say he now regrets the decision, which was at the time clouded by a typically public separation from his wife of 17 years, Donna Hanover. Mr Giuliani told the press of his decision before he told his wife. He later authorised his lawyer to state that she was 'squealing like a stuck pig' as he tried to move his new girlfriend into the official mansion. As he prepares to leave office, it is hard to see how he will leave public life completely. Rumours of a new national role abound. One of the most prominent is that he will end up replacing George Tenet as head of the CIA, the government institution most likely to carry the can for failing to prevent the terrorist attacks. Few Washington insiders can imagine Mr Giuliani running such an ultra-discreet part of the government. Others, however, acknowledge that sweeping reforms may require someone of his 'bite' to get them through a fearsome bureaucracy. It might also require a warming of his relationship with President George W. Bush. The two, despite all the post-September empathy, have never hit it off, politically or personally. 'There is now considerable personal respect,' one White House source said. 'But that is about as far it goes.' Mr Bush loves his 'all-Texas' persona. But Mr Giuliani will be forever New York.