I just spoke with Jim Dyke, a Giuliani communications advisor, about tonight's debate. He said Giuliani will attempt to emphasize his record as mayor, the war on terrorism, and his fiscal conservatism. (This didn't come up in the interview, but the Giuliani campaign has already gotten plenty of mileage out of the Club for Growth's glowing report on his economic record, if press releases are any measure. I wouldn't be surprised to see Rudy tout the report during the debate).
Try as he might, though, Giuliani will be forced to talk about other matters he'd rather avoid. Two issues of particular interest in South Carolina (and particularly prickly for Rudy) are the confederate flag issue and the pending ultrasound legislation. According to Dyke, Rudy will stick to a "states rights" position on both, without expressing his personal views. I see this as potentially problematic, because it will revive charges that Giuliani is using federalism as an excuse to dodge controversial issues. Given that Rudy's speech in Houston last Friday was supposed to mark a new campaign strategy of stating his views on divisive issues more directly, resorting to the federalism tactic on too many issues in tonight's debate would send contradictory signals. It's also a bit inconsistent. His concerns about federalism didn't stop him from saying he opposed the New Hampshire civil unions law because it came too close to marriage. Of course, we should wait for the actual debate to see how Giuliani will handle these questions himself. This is just something to look out for.
As we were wrapping up our talk, Dyke acknowledged that Giuliani's nuanced positions on social issues make them more difficult to explain in neat sound bites, which is required in a 10-candidate debate with 30-60 second answers. Dyke said in the last debate, each candidate spoke for only about 7 minutes.