MANCHESTER, N.H. — In this state on January 8, Rudy Giuliani will face an early test of whether he can translate his national celebrity status into a winning presidential campaign.
Over the weekend, Giuliani took his first bus tour through the state, and the results were mixed, providing fodder for both his skeptics and supporters. On Saturday, he appeared outside City Hall in Manchester to receive the endorsement of Mayor Frank Guinta. The crowd was sparse, and the number of people who crashed the event waving Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul signs rivaled the number who had come to support Giuliani. But later that evening, as he strolled down Main Street in Nashua, he was treated like a star, posing for pictures and signing autographs, with people calling to him affectionately as “Rudy,” and even occasionally wrapping their arms around him in bear hugs.
Speaking to TAS and two other reporters on Sunday, as his bus traveled from Hudson to Windham, Giuliani was asked how much of his viability as a candidate is rooted in the connection people have to him as a result of his leadership in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks.
“That might be the thing that gets people to pay attention to me, but I would like them to look at my whole record,” Giuliani said, recounting his successes as a mob prosecutor and crime-fighting mayor that preceded the attacks on the World Trade Center. “If people look to Sept. 11 as they have a right to and should, and they think I made the right decisions then, it didn’t happen in a vacuum. It happened after years and years of experience in dealing with different situations and crises.”
As the primary season enters its final stretch, Giuliani is attempting to contrast himself with rivals by pointing to the results he was able to get in New York City, and predicting that he could have similar successes at the national level. “Ending illegal immigration is a heck of a job. Nobody’s ever done it,” he said. “I know I can do it. I know that the same way I knew I could reduce welfare and dramatically reduce crime….If people want a president that can get things done, that’s what I do.”
THOUGH GIULIANI HAS A DOUBLE-DIGIT LEAD in national polls and in large states such as Florida and California, he trails Mitt Romney in Iowa as well as here in New Hampshire. Over the weekend, Giuliani sharpened his attacks on the former Massachusetts governor, arguing onboard the bus that “frankly, [Romney] didn’t get results.”
“He was not one of the outstanding governors,” Giuliani said. “George Will said, when I was mayor of New York, I ran the most successful conservative government in the last 50 or 60 years. Nobody would say that about Mitt Romney. The one thing he’s known for is health care. And the health care [program] is the thing he’s abandoned in the rest of the country because he had to contain a very big mistake, which he realizes is a bad mistake, a mandate — a mandate which is enforceable by a tax.”
Giuliani went on to criticize Romney’s record on law and order issues. “He had a poor record on crime,” Giuliani said. “Violent crime went up, murder went up while he was governor. In both of those categories [in New York City], we had historic decreases.”
Giuliani continued, “In the area of fiscal management, he tried to bring about tax cuts, he failed to do it. I tried to bring about tax cuts, I succeeded in doing it….So I think there’s a difference between a guy who gets results, real results, that were applauded nationwide, and somebody who had a mixed record, at best, as governor.”
In addition to taking aim at Romney’s record, he also blasted his rival’s campaign style.
“Governor Romney has kind of a propensity to be in a glass house,” Giuliani said. “He throws stones at people, then on that issue, he normally has a worse record than whoever he is throwing stones at.”
SHOULD GIULIANI GAIN the Republican nomination, his Democratic rival will likely attempt to portray him as a man with an authoritarian streak who was an overzealous prosecutor and had a robust view of executive power as mayor. During the interview, Giuliani was asked to respond to two of the most common criticisms along these lines — that he used “perp walks” as prosecutor to parade indicted men before the media and that he attempted to extend his final term as mayor in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks.
“I didn’t try to extend my term,” Giuliani said flatly. “Other people suggested that, and I turned it down, said we shouldn’t.” He noted that he cut an endorsement commercial for his successor, Michael Bloomberg.
He also defended his record as prosecutor. “Who decides whether people’s rights are violated?” Giuliani asked rhetorically. “Courts. I had something like 4,000-5,000 cases held up on appeal, and something like 26 reversed. That’s about as good a record as any prosecutor can have.”
Giuliani went on, “Sure, I’d be accused sometimes of going too far, but then when it got looked at by a court, in a dispassionate light of day, most of the times they concluded that I was acting fairly, impartially, and convictions were correct convictions.”
Asked how he would rally a war-weary nation around his commitment to remain “on offense” against terrorism, Giuliani rejected the premise of the question. “I think the mood of the country has subtly changed somewhat and it’s going to be somewhere different six months from now.” Giuliani remains committed to keeping troops in Iraq, but he said going forward, the major issue will be Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons.
“The use of the military option against Iran is something that we should avoid, it’s something that should be the last option,” Giuliani said. “It’s something that we should realize would be very dangerous, and difficult. But a nuclear Iran would be more difficult, more dangerous, long-term more destabilizing for us and the entire world.”
He rejected the arguments of those who compare a nuclear Iran to the former Soviet Union.
“There are people who believe that we can live with a nuclear Iran,” Giuliani said. “There are people who believe that containment might work. There are people who believe you could use the model of the Cold War….I believe they are fundamentally wrong in that calculation. I think Iran is very different than the Soviets were during the Cold War. Iran is very different than even North Korea. Iran has imperial ambitions, Iran has used language of attack against Israel and the United States. They’ve sort of told us their ambitions if they become nuclear. Iran is an unstable regime. It is an irrational regime, it is controlled by the mullahs and by a theocracy.”
The latest CNN/WMUR poll had Giuliani slipping into third place in New Hampshire, 17 points behind Romney and slightly trailing John McCain. The silver lining for Giuliani was that only 14 percent of those polled said they were definitely decided on a candidate, meaning that the former mayor still has an opening. Within the last two weeks, Giuliani has taken out his first television ads here, which, along with the bus tour, suggests he plans to compete seriously in the state. He has six weeks to get results.
Philip Klein is a reporter for The American Spectator.
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