Giuliani Tries Retail Politics in New Hampshire

Rudy Giuliani hasn't spent as much time as his rivals on retail politics — handshaking and baby kissing. His campaign swing through New Hampshire was meant to correct that and he encounters some awkward moments.

ROBERT SMITH: I'm Robert Smith, traveling with Rudy Giuliani in Nashua, New Hampshire. Mitt Romney wasn't the only candidate feeling more picked on than a Thanksgiving turkey. The Giuliani campaign says their man was the one under attack this weekend. Not only did Romney call him a Hillary clone, but former Senator Fred Thompson chided Giuliani for always talking about New York City. And on Giuliani's first stop of the day yesterday, at Susie's Diner in Hudson, he got cornered by Roger Latulip(ph). The 67-year-old veteran wants the U.S. out of Iraq.

Mr. ROGER LATULIP (Veteran): Men and women are dying over there right now.

Mr. RUDY GIULIANI (Republican Presidential Candidate): Ask them. Ask them what they want to do.

Mr. LATULIP: Yeah. I realize what you're saying.

Mayor GIULIANI: They want victory - they want victory in Iraq.

Mr. LATULIP: Well, we would like victory too, but I want it sooner than later.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SMITH: It must have been a relief when one of his supporters in the diner finally started to complain about somebody else; in this case, Mitt Romney. Giuliani joined in eagerly.

Mr. GIULIANI: He had one of the weaker records of any governor on economics.

Unidentified Man: Exactly.

Mayor GIULIANI: The Cato Institute said he was C for governors. They put him on the bottom tier of governors. I think he's going to have a hard time defending his economic record.

SMITH: Up until now, Rudy Giuliani hasn't spent as much time as his rivals on retail politics, the old handshaking and baby-kissing routine. This swing through New Hampshire was meant to correct that, but it was filled with some awkward moments. Giuliani talked to one man for three minutes about football, even after the man admitted that he didn't really follow the sport. And then the former hard-nosed prosecutor made sure he warned kids that Santa only brings presents...

Mayor GIULIANI: For good boys and girls. Okay.

SMITH: The Giuliani campaign says it's not surprising that they trail former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney in New Hampshire polls. Giuliani has spent less than a million dollars here and is just starting a major barrage of television ads. But he took every chance to remind voters that he's on Romney's tail. At a brunch event in Windham he mocked Romney's claim to be a tax cutter.

Mayor GIULIANI: No one, including the governor when you ask him, did tax cuts. His answer was I proposed tax cuts but I couldn't do them because I had a Democratic legislature. What do you think I had?

SMITH: Meanwhile, on the campaign bus his staff spent a ride accusing Romney of being defensive and making things up. The only respite from all these Grinch-like back and forth was a holiday parade in Salem, New Hampshire.

(Soundbite of music)

SMITH: The campaign bus blared Christmas carols as Giuliani showed off the parade skills he picked up as mayor of New York.

Mayor GIULIANI: Young lady, how are you? How are you? Good to see you. You getting cold? You getting cold?

SMITH: Some people jumped off to the sidewalk and ran into the street to shake Giuliani's hand. A few even gave him a bear hug. But not Shirley Legenda(ph). She's not happy about seeing the message of the holidays drowned out by politics and bickering.

LEGENDA: I don't think a Christmas parade is the place for this. That's the only thing.

SMITH: Really, you think it distracts from the season?

LEGENDA: I do. Yeah, I do. Take a break.

SMITH: Not with the primary on January 8th, they won't. At this point New Hampshire is more decorated with campaign signs than boughs of holly.

Robert Smith, NPR News, Nashua.

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