Presidential Contender Giuliani Praises Bush

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Amid the many would-be presidents, one Republican is praising Bush's leadership: Rudolph Giuliani. Byron York, White House correspondent for the National Review discusses the likely role of social conservatism in the 2008 election, and Giuliani's chances at winning the presidency.

DEBBIE ELLIOTT, host:

Democratic presidential hopefuls Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton sparred on the subject of Iraq today as they campaigned in Iowa and New Hampshire. Obama said Clinton didn't have a specific plan to get U.S. troops out. Clinton said she would force Iraqis to take charge of their own security. While the Democrats denounced the war, one Republican contender has praise for President Bush's leadership. Addressing California Republicans in Sacramento this weekend, former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani recalled another Republican president, a Californian.

Mr. RUDOLPH GIULIANI (Former New York Mayor): The great moral issue of Ronald Reagan's time was defeating communism. The great moral issue of our time is defeating terrorism.

(Soundbite of cheering)

Mr. GIULIANI: And it's bigger - it's bigger than just that. It isn't just defeating terrorism and winning the war on terror. This is to win the world for a set of ideas that are American but they're not just ours; they're ideas that I believe come from God. That's what our founding fathers told us. That's where they come from.

ELLIOT: Rudy Giuliani has yet to declare officially that he's seeking the Republican nomination for president, although in his speech in California he did speak about the type of president he would like to be. Here to talk about Rudy Giuliani's chances is Byron York, White House correspondent for the National Review. Welcome. Thanks for coming in.

Mr. BYRON YORK (National Review): Good to be here.

ELLIOTT: Clearly, Rudy Giuliani, who led New Yorkers after the 9/11 attacks, has the credentials when it comes to fighting terrorism. But what about his support for President Bush and his Iraq strategy?

Mr. YORK: You know, with Giuliani, I mean what's interesting is this is his big appeal to the Republican primary audience, is national security; and you know, on other issues, Giuliani is kind of dividing the Republican electorate quite a bit.

ELLIOTT: Other issues?

Mr. YORK: Well, he's quite famously liberal on the social issues. He is - he's pro-choice, he's pro-gay rights...

ELLIOTT: Abortion, gun control...

Mr. YORK: And he's pro-gun control. So the kind of receptions like he got in Sacramento on Saturday and like he gets all around the country do not necessarily translate into votes.

ELLIOTT: What about his message? How is he trying to reach those voters and make them comfortable with his positions on social issues?

Mr. YORK: Well, on the social issues, what he tells them is, he strongly supports appointing strict constructionists for the Supreme Court, the message being that I would support judges who might vote to overturn Roe if it came to that.

ELLIOTT: You know, when you look at Republican primary voters, what percentage of them really are making that final decision based on those social conservative value kind of issues?

Mr. YORK: You know, we're not entirely sure, and the question now is whether the times that we're in has something to do with that, whether these social issues are going to be as big a deal in 2008 as they were in 2000, when we were basically dealing with peace and prosperity, and the big question in the presidential race was what are we going to do with this fabulous surplus that we have.

ELLIOTT: What about other issues? Are there issues that he talks about other than terrorism that appeal to the type of voter who is going to be voting in the Republican primary?

Mr. YORK: Absolutely, and I think you're seeing now more attention to his record in New York, especially on crime and welfare, which a number of Democrats in New York find controversial and a number of Republicans find great. And there's one other thing about him. The thing about voters is that they seem to want an executive to head the executive branch. That's why governors have done better, and in terms of projecting the image of the man in charge, I think Giuliani's pretty much unparalleled.

ELLIOTT: Byron York is White House correspondent for the National Review. Thanks for coming in.

Mr. YORK: It's good to be here.

ELLIOTT: You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

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