July 16, 2006

Giuliani a wild card in 2008 White House race

By John Whitesides, Political Correspondent

BALTIMORE (Reuters) - Former New York Mayor Rudolph
Giuliani has the record, reputation and travel schedule of a
serious White House contender. But it will not be easy turning
"America's Mayor" into America's president.

Riding high on the acclaim for his leadership in New York
after the September 11 attacks, Giuliani is a huge draw on the
Republican fund-raising circuit and one of the party's most
popular figures.

Some opinion polls show him joining Arizona Sen. John
McCain at the top of a crowded field of potential Republican
candidates to succeed President George W. Bush in 2008.

But Giuliani's support for abortion rights and gay rights
is likely to anger conservatives who wield considerable power
in Republican primaries. And his willingness to trade a
lucrative and stress-free private life for the mud pit of a
presidential campaign remains uncertain.

"Giuliani is a real wild card in the race," said Republican
consultant Whit Ayres.

"If he were any other normal politician you would dismiss
his chances out of hand because so many of his positions are so
far out of the Republican mainstream. But he's not any other
politician, he's an authentic American hero whose leadership
after 9/11 showed perfect political pitch."

Giuliani says he is evaluating his support and finances for
a possible White House bid and will make a decision after
November's congressional elections.

"That is something I'm seriously thinking about," he said
of a presidential race before appearing at a fund raiser for
Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich in Baltimore, the last stop on a
tour that included the battleground states of Pennsylvania and

Giuilani has earned millions as a consultant and
motivational speaker since leaving office and avoided the kind
of public scrutiny that a political campaign brings. But that
could all change quickly if he runs again.

"There are candidates who are most popular just before they
announce," said Republican consultant Rich Galen. "You never
know for sure until it happens. You can only test these things
at the ballot box."

Many Republicans, particularly candidates grateful for his
help, are certain of Giuliani's appeal.


"He would be the strongest possible candidate of the
present field," Ehrlich said. "Philosophically, his views are
in the mainstream of where Maryland is."

Like McCain, Giuliani has supported the Iraq war and Bush's
war on terrorism. He frequently praises Bush, and has appeared
with conservatives like Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and at
conservative gatherings like the Global Pastors Network.

"The president is doing a good job, the country is in
better shape than is sometimes presented," Giuliani said during
an appearance in Pennsylvania for Republican Lynn Swann, who is
running for governor.

If national security concerns and terrorism threats still
dominate the debate in 2008, Giuliani's decisive leadership in
New York could trump any doubts about him on social issues.

"The issues could break in his favor. There are a lot of
social issue conservatives who place terror above all other
issues," said Fred Siegel, a professor at Cooper Union in New
York City and author of a book on Giuliani.

"After Katrina, politicians were saying 'Where is our
Giuliani?' He doesn't need to do anything to make himself
prominent in these situations," he said.

"He's honest and he wears his heart on his sleeve. You just
feel comfortable with the guy," said Rocky Gonzalez, a Maryland
businessman who attended the Ehrlich fund-raiser.

Galen said Giuliani's political fate in 2008 could hang on
whether Republicans opt for a candidate who appeals to the
party's ideological base or one who reaches a broad array of

"Do you want to win or are you willing to lose on the anvil
of ideology? Both parties are going to have to make that
decision," Galen said. "That will be the central question of
the 2008 election."