Giuliani Looks South for Support

Rudy Giuliani has good polling numbers and good fundraising numbers. But the Republican presidential candidate's perceived weakness has always been about voters in the conservative South. Giuliani tries to win them over with events in Savannah, Ga., and a Daytona Speedway event in central Florida.

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Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani took a spin around the Daytona Speedway last night as an honorary official in NASCAR's Pepsi 400. The stock car race capped off a three-day campaign swing through the south for the former New York City mayor. Giuliani tidied his record as someone who's tough on terrorism and taxes and defended his record as someone who's occasionally taught on guns.

NPR's Scott Horsley report form Orlando, Florida.

SCOTT HORSLEY: In the reclaim swamps of Central Florida, there's some place for almost everyone to feel at home. Whether it's a Disneyfied(ph) Paris neighborhood at Epcot Center or a foe New York City deli in the middle of an Orlando strip mall.

TooJay's Deli sits along side of Starbucks and a great cuts(ph) barber shop. Owner Ralph Lyons says it might not be kosher(ph), but it's pretty close.

Mr. RALPH LYONS (Owner, TooJay's Deli, Orlando, Florida): The corned beef, obviously, is great. (Unintelligible), potato pancakes - I mean, it's all good.

(Soundbite of laughter)

HORSLEY: Lyon's deli dubbed even more like the real thing yesterday when former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani dropped by for a visit - signing autographs and posing for photos that surprised lunch time dinners.

Mr. RUDY GIULIANI (Former Mayor New York City; Republican Presidential Candidate): How are you?

Mr. GIULIANI: How are you?

Unidentified Woman: How are you?

Unidentified Man #1: I'm good. (Unintelligible).

Mr. GIULIANI: How are you doing? Good to see you.

Unidentified Man #2: Thanks for being here.

Unidentified Man #3: God bless you. You're something else.

HORSLEY: Giuliani's pop-in was part of a campaign swing that took the Republican presidential candidate through three southern states. But it often felt as if he'd never left Manhattan. Even outside an old oyster shacking house in Bluffton, South Carolina. There was many Yankees and New York City fire department caps as there were Southern straw fedoras.

Giuliani was in Bluffton to introduce his Beaufort County campaign team. Afterwards, Marie Ravery(ph), Bob Taylor(ph), and Linda Taylor(ph) gathered under a shade tree to discuss the mayor's performance.

Ms. MARIE RAVERY (Resident, Bluffton, South Carolina): I feel that he was wonderful - he's always wonderful. I'm a New Yorker and he did a great job there, and he would do a great job for our country.

Mr. BOB TAYLOR (Resident, Bluffton, South Carolina): He represents an awful lot of our values. So, I like him very much.

Ms. LINDA TAYLOR (Resident, Bluffton, South Carolina): And we're (unintelligible). I think he did a lot for New York and that - his track record to me is speaking for itself.

HORSLEY: Giuliani is running on that track record. Not only as someone who stood up in the face of terrorism on September 11th, but also - as he told the Town Hall meeting in Georgia - a strong physical conservative.

Mr. GIULIANI: When you look at my record as mayor of New York City, I had to assert physical discipline in a place where it was more difficult to do than Washington, D.C. We lowered taxes, we lowered the rate of growth of government - I don't just believe in these things, I have a strong commitment to them because I've done it.

HORSLEY: No one in the audience took issue with those accomplishments. But one young man did asked what he should tell skeptical friends about Giuliani's record on gun control.

Mr. GIULIANI: What your friends are probably concern about is my history as mayor of New York City, because I enforced the gun laws in New York very aggressively. I enforced all laws in New York City very aggressively. I'm sure you don't have any friends like this. The only friend of yours that should worry about me are the one's that are criminals.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GIULIANI: They should get very worried.

HORSLEY: Giuliani lead the republican field in National polls and he raised more money than his GOP rivals in the last three months. But as she walked away from one Giuliani event, displaced Brooklynite(ph) Rita Nemire(ph) have said she's not ready to commit just yet especially with a southern conservative still threatening to enter the race.

Ms. RITA NEMIRE (Resident, Bluffton, South Carolina): I want to see what Fred Thompson has to say.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. NEMIRE: But, you know, I will always be embedded(ph) to Rudy for cleaning up New York.

HORSLEY: Giuliani wrapped up the holiday week campaign by attending a NASCAR race - a sporting event who's popularity now extends far beyond its southern roots.

Unidentified Male #3: Gentlemen, start you engines.

HORSLEY: The stock car race covered 160 laps at the Daytona International Speedway. For Giuliani and the other presidential contenders, the race goes on much longer.

Scott Horsley, NPR News, Orlando.

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