Giuliani touts electability during Minnesota stopby Tom Scheck, Minnesota Public Radio
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani told Minnesota supporters he's the most electable Republican running for President. Giuliani was in St. Paul Thursday, raising money and meeting with patrons of a St. Paul restaurant. Giuliani made the campaign stop with the hopes that he will win the GOP nomination in St. Paul next September.
St. Paul, Minn. — About 100 supporters crammed into the cozy Parkview Cafe in St. Paul to get a chance to see Giuliani. He shook hands, posed for pictures and sat down to talk about issues with some customers.
Giuliani made the stop just one year before the city hosts the Republican Party's national convention, when delegates will nominate their candidate for president. Giuliani told supporters he is in the best position to win the GOP nomination, and the general election.
"If I'm nominated here in Minnesota next year, I'll walk out of here being able to campaign virtually in 50 states. If somebody else is nominated, they'll walk out of here being able to campaign in 20 to 25 states," said Giuliani.
Giuliani is making that claim because he's polling well against Democrats in state and national polls.
Giuliani's campaign stop comes one day after former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson, a Republican, officially announced his campaign for president. Thompson also campaigned in Minnesota last week. Giuliani said he isn't too worried about a Thompson candidacy.
"The race hasn't changed at all. It's exactly the same campaign that it was a week ago, two weeks ago, three weeks ago," said Giuliani. "I don't run against any other Republican, I run against Democrats."
Giuliani may have some work to do to appease some conservative Republicans. He's been married three times, and supported abortion rights, gun control and gay rights during his time as New York's mayor.
When asked if he was conservative enough to win the GOP endorsement, Giuliani replied that many thought he was too conservative to be New York City mayor.
Supporters at the Parkview Cafe seemed to focus more on Giuliani's political strengths. Kavon Nikrad of Robbinsdale is a Giuliani supporter. He said Giuliani's reaction to the 9/11 terrorist attacks shows that he's a leader.
Nikrad said he's also been impressed with how Giuliani turned around New York City during his time as mayor between 1994 and 2002.
"Even if 9/11 never happened, Rudy Giuliani should be the choice for the Republican Party in 2008," said Nikrad. "This is a guy who totally reformed a city that most conservatives felt was absolutely hopeless for any kind of conservative reform. He eliminated taxes, he cut crime and he cut the welfare rolls."
Nikrad and his wife were part of a small group that talked with Giuliani for about 15 minutes about taxes, immigration and the war on terror.
Giuliani told the group that he does not support tax increases and believes tax cuts spur the economy.
He argued that strengthening the nation's borders should be the first step in immigration reform, and said he believes the country needs to stay on the offensive regarding the war in Iraq and the war on terror.
Giuliani was asked about an issue much closer to home -- the collapse of the I-35W bridge in Minneapolis last month. He said he would improve the nation's infrastructure by reducing the number of earmarks in Congress. When asked if he would support a gas tax increase, Giuliani didn't directly answer the question, but he called a gas tax increase a knee-jerk response.
Scott Wasilowski of Apple Valley also sat with Giuliani. He said he's undecided on who he'll back for president but was impressed with Giuliani.
"He's very genuine. I kind of expected a stuffy New Yorker. And he sat down with a kid from Burnsville Minnesota, had a cup of coffee and he seemed very genuine to me," said Wasilowski. "He's definitely someone I could vote for. I didn't feel like he was blowing smoke up my backside. He seemed like a real, honest guy."
Democrats counter that Giuliani isn't being honest with voters. Minnesota DFL Party Chair Brian Melendez said Giuliani is inflating his record on everything from how long he spent at Ground Zero after the World Trade Center attacks, to his management of the New York City budget.
Melendez also doesn't think Giuliani has the experience to be president.
"If Rudy Giuliani is such a great candidate, then why does he have to inflate and fabricate things in his record?" Melendez said. "And how can being mayor of a large city be enough experience to run the entire United States? He's never been involved in government on the state level."
Melendez concedes that Giuliani could be a formidable candidate if he wins the GOP endorsement.
To date, Giuliani is the top Republican fundraiser in Minnesota, raising $220,000 through June. That number will increase, since Giuliani's Minnesota trip also included a private fundraiser hosted by wealthy Republicans Wheelock Whitney and Stanley Hubbard.
- All Things Considered, 09/06/2007, 5:20 p.m.