MANCHESTER, N.H. – Former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani argued Saturday that his record of cutting taxes, improving security and guiding the city through Sept. 11 are proof that he could do the same as president – offering his strongest signal yet that he’s serious about a White House bid.
“When I promise you things – if I do and when I do and as I do – I’ll promise them because I’ve done them before, not just because I had a vision of them,” Giuliani said as he finished a visit to this first-primary state.
Giuliani is trying to bat down questions from top Republicans about whether his White House ambitions are a popularity-fueled dalliance or something serious. His speech laid out a point-by-point rationale for his possible candidacy, seeking to portray himself as a tested leader for dangerous times in the mold of Ronald Reagan.
“You know how you solve problems? You solve them from strength not weakness. You make progress from optimism, not pessimism. You make progress from faith and not cynicism,” Giuliani said to raucous applause from the state GOP convention crowd.
He also appeared intent on quieting questions about his marital history by giving wife Judith Nathan an unusually high-profile role here. She barely left his side in public, and he called her a “partner” whom he leaned on for everything from getting through Sept. 11 and prostate cancer to understanding the science behind possible anthrax attacks.
But Giuliani failed to mention that he was still married to Donna Hanover when Nathan helped him after his cancer diagnosis in spring 2000, and that the revelation of his illness came amid the messy public breakup of his second marriage.
In the end, Giuliani’s two-day visit here encapsulated the promise and challenge of his possible candidacy.
On one hand, his name recognition and tough-guy image in New York, before and after Sept. 11, helped him draw large and enthusiastic crowds on this visit. But even some who were eager to see him were blunt in saying his personal history and liberal social stances could prove a serious, perhaps insurmountable obstacle to winning their votes.
One state delegate, teacher Chas Street, 51, of Walpole, recalled with admiration his own trips to New York when Giuliani was mayor and no longer having to “grab your wallet. … It was almost like walking in a combat zone for a while.”
But he was also aware Giuliani has been married three times and did little to disguise his distaste. He said Giuliani would have to explain “why things evolved the way they did.”
At the same time, Chris Ager, 47, of Merrimack, a marketing director, said that he disagreed with Giuliani’s stances in favor of abortion rights and expanded gay rights, but that Giuliani proved after Sept. 11 he has that certain something required to lead the nation.
“I’m almost opposite on issues with Rudy, but I like him because I think he goes deeper than the labels,” said Ager, who admired Giuliani’s “blue-collar, smash-mouth” style of leadership. “He just exudes that confidence in his ability.”
The stakes for Giuliani in New Hampshire are high.
Sandwiched next year between early contests in Iowa and South Carolina, where socially conservative voters might turn against him, Giuliani would need a strong showing here to stay alive for the next big test, a mega-primary day in early February with three seemingly Giuliani-friendly states – New Jersey, Florida and California.
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