- Nov 22, 2003
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ugust 17, 2006 Edition > Section: Opinion > Printer-Friendly Version
Giuliani Sprints in Carolina As Band Plays New York ...'
BY RYAN SAGER - Special to the Sun
August 17, 2006
GREENVILLE, S.C. If Rudy Giuliani does run for president in 2008, the Palmetto State is everything that's supposedly going to trip him up in the primaries: It's Southern (Mr. Giuliani's a Yankee), it's religious (61% evangelical, the sixth highest concentration in the nation), and it's predisposed to go with the guy whose "turn" it is (think Bob Dole in 1996).
But none of those hurdles seemed terribly high as Mr. Giuliani sprinted from event to event yesterday, starting with a fund-raiser for a local GOP congressional candidate in Greenville, moving on to a motivational speech around the corner, and finishing up with another fundraiser at night for the state GOP, on the other side of the state in Charleston.
Addressing roughly 75 supporters of Republican congressional candidate Ralph Norman a business-oriented, conservative state representative running to unseat a Democratic incumbent Mr. Giuliani gave an instructive preview of how he might try to sell himself to skeptical Southern primary voters.
The 2000 election, Mr. Giuliani said, had taught him just how important politics really is. While the election had seemed a relatively frivolous one at the time, suddenly on September 11, 2001 it mattered a great deal who was in the White House. "Sometimes, elections are more important than we realize when we're in them," he said.
While he tied that argument to the 2006 midterm elections, the real message was clear: The coming presidential election isn't about the Confederate flag, it's not about Roe v. Wade, it's not about whether New York's former mayor has had some marital troubles it's about who will lead America in the War on Terror. Some conservatives might not see eye-to-eye with this Blue-stater on social issues, but this is a new world we live in.
"I think it's going to happen we can't keep this country 100% safe," Mr. Giuliani said about the prospect of another terrorist attack on American soil, adding that he's "surprised" we haven't been hit again thus far. What's more, he said, Republicans shouldn't shy away from "politicizing" the War on Terror in fighting the Democrats. "You don't have to politicize a war," he said. "Wars are political It's our right as Republicans to argue our case There's a big difference between our party and theirs."
The crowd responded warmly. As Mr. Giuliani finished taking questions from the audience, Fred Butler, 87 years old, of Greenville, piped up and said he hoped greatly that the former mayor would get into the 2008 GOP contest. "How much do I owe you?" Mr. Giuliani cracked as he wrapped things up.
Mr. Butler, speaking to me after the fundraiser, said that Mr. Giuliani is currently his top choice for the 2008 primary. "I know he did a good job in New York City, and I think he's just a good man," Mr. Butler said. He added, "I think he would garner a lot more votes than anyone I could think of right now."
A retired plant manager, Mr. Butler told me he was prepared to support Senator McCain after his win in New Hampshire in 2000, "but after he made his pitch down here, I voted for Bush." As for Mr. McCain's chances this time around, Mr. Butler doesn't seem particularly ready to give the senator another chance: "He's not as popular as a lot of people think, not as popular now as he was then I don't think he'll get the nomination."
Mr. Butler was hardly alone in his sentiments.
In the afternoon, Mr. Giuliani took his show to the "Get Motivated" business seminar at a nearby convention center. The Get Motivated seminars, which Mr. Giuliani has been doing every few weeks for the last few years, are a bit cheesy "Is anyone here proud to be an American?" the perky announcer asked the crowd before launching into patriotic song and then introducing the star of the show but they showcase an engaging side of the former mayor.
Mr. Giuliani came on stage to the strains of "New York, NewYork," as a rain of red-white-and-blue streamers and confetti dropped from the ceiling. As he moved through a series of humorous and inspirational anecdotes, the crowd laughed at his quips and roared with applause and laughter when he closed with a story he likes to tell about a New York City construction worker bear-hugging President Bush at Ground Zero much to the dismay of the Secret Service.
As Mr. Giuliani left the stage, I asked the woman sitting next to me Camilia Huntley, a North Carolina Republican born and raised in South Carolina what she thought. "He's the one," was her to-the-point reply. Pressed, she said that Mr. Giuliani's abortion position did trouble her, but it wouldn't sway her vote. "He has shown such great leadership in New York," she said. And, Ms. Huntley added, she just doesn't trust Senator McCain as a leader in a crisis for reasons, she said, she couldn't quite articulate.
The crowds yesterday were certainly self-selected. Everyone present had come out more-or-less specifically to see America's Mayor on the stump. And neither venue was quite overflowing. The upper rows at the "Get Motivated" speech, in particular, had thinned out as the seminar was coming to a close.
A primary campaign will be grueling. A lot of Mr. Giuliani's support here could be worn down as the details of his personal life and his positions on social issues are swirled around by his opponents. If he's not careful, his rhetoric about the War on Terror could start to sound more than a bit like fear mongering.
But the argument that Mr. Giuliani simply can't win over conservatives in South Carolina, and the South more generally, gets more tenuous by the day.
Mr. Sager is author of "The Elephant in the Room: Evangelicals, Libertarians, and the Battle to Control the Republican Party," due out September 12 from Wiley Publishing. You can email Mr. Sager at firstname.lastname@example.org.