Giuliani Takes Campaign to Prickly S. Carolina Republican presidential candidate Rudolph Giuliani heads to South Carolina this week. It's hardly a natural for the former New York City mayor, who finds himself at odds with the social conservatives who dominate the state GOP.
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Giuliani Takes Campaign to Prickly S. Carolina

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Giuliani Takes Campaign to Prickly S. Carolina

Giuliani Takes Campaign to Prickly S. Carolina

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ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

He is doing well in the polls, but Rudy Giuliani still has a long way to go if he's going to win the Republican primary in South Carolina. The former mayor of New York has spent much of the past two days campaigning there. He was in Charleston today, where his campaign touted what it called a big endorsement from former rival Tommy Thompson.

NPR's Adam Hochberg reports on the challenge Giuliani faces in South Carolina.

ADAM HOCHBERG: As he travels across South Carolina, Rudy Giuliani is trying to do something no Republican has done since the state started holding early primaries more than 25 years ago. He's trying to persuade Southern voters here in the heart of the Bible Belt to embrace a northeasterner and a social moderate.

RUDY GIULIANI: How are you? Here you go. Good to see you. How are you?

Unidentified Man#1: Hey, Rudy.

GIULIANI: You've got a nice place here.

Man#1: Thank you. Thank you.

HOCHBERG: Giuliani stopped at a Greenville coffee house, epitomized the challenge he faces in his campaign. Several people who met him praised what they perceived as his strong leadership skills on 9/11. But some said they also have doubts about him, both on personal issues like his three marriages, and on policy positions like his support for abortion rights, same sex civil unions and gun control.

John Butcher(ph), a GOP leader from Columbia, says Giuliani poses a dilemma for South Carolina Republicans.

JOHN BUTCHER: You know, we're kind of a conservative, churchgoing people down here. He's got, you know, marriages and he's had what he did with the gun situation in New York. I can't understand where his thinking might come from. But people like him as a person, the personality. It's just - those are things that people got to overcome.

SIEGEL: I would like to introduce, and it's my honor and privilege, Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

HOCHBERG: In his South Carolina speeches, Giuliani avoids dicey, social issues. Instead, he mainly sticks to subjects most Republicans here agree on. He promises to lower taxes and make the federal government smaller. And before a county GOP group, he tried to burnish his credentials as a fiscal conservative.

GIULIANI: George Will said that I ran the most conservative government in the United States when I was mayor of New York City in the last 60 years. I held down spending in New York City more than any other mayor in the history of the city, and I'll do the same thing as president of the United States.

HOCHBERG: Giuliani's quick to add, though, that if he's elected, he would spend more on the military and on fighting terrorism, promises that often garner applause from audiences in this largely pro-military state. And unlike some of the Republican candidates who rarely mention President Bush, Giuliani today praised the president's position on the Iraq War.

GIULIANI: People ask me, well, what's your policy on Iraq? How about our policy in Iraq is victory in Iraq.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

GIULIANI: Success in Iraq.

HOCHBERG: Officials with Giuliani's campaign are confident positions like that will win him support from South Carolina Republicans, even the 30 percent or so who identify themselves as evangelicals and might be put off by his social views. Giuliani's supporters predict this election will hinge more on issues like national security. And the ex-mayor says he senses he's making headway here.

GIULIANI: Of course there are going to be some people who disagree with you. But maybe they see a lot that they agree within my candidacy. And it's my job to try to get them to see that and we're going to reach out and try to do that in as effective a way as we can.

HOCHBERG: Polls show Giuliani with about 20 percent of the South Carolina primary vote, enough to put him near the top of the field, but not enough for him to pull away from the other candidates. And some analysts predict the campaign will get tougher for him as the primary nears and more voters start paying attention.

Furman University political scientist Danielle Vinson expects Giuliani to have trouble growing his South Carolina support.

DANIELLE VINSON: I think, in general, in the state, you're going to find people that don't really want to vote for a northeasterner. Giuliani is sort of South-Carolina-stereotypical New Yorker in the way he talks, the way he presents himself. And so here's a potential for him stylistically to rub people the wrong way.

HOCHBERG: Vinson says South Carolina Republicans tend to gravitate toward candidates they perceive as strictly conservative. In past primaries, voters here gave Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush early triumph that helped propel them to the nomination.

Analysts note though that South Carolina's demographics are slowly changing as more retirees and other people move here from northern states - a trend that could give Giuliani a boost as he seeks what would be a historic victory in a bellwether southern state.

Adam Hochberg, NPR News, Columbia, South Carolina.

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