By Dan Balz and Chris Cillizza
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, February 6, 2007
Former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani jumped into the 2008 presidential race yesterday, filing a statement of candidacy with the Federal Election Commission and declaring on national television last night, "I'm in this to win."
Giuliani's actions were aimed at erasing any lingering doubts about whether he would enter the 2008 campaign and came after an intensive month of activity in which he has stepped up his political travels, broadened his political team and expanded his fundraising operation. A formal announcement will come later, Giuliani said.
Giuliani, 62, served two terms as mayor of New York and earned widespread praise for his leadership after terrorists struck the city on Sept. 11, 2001. He leads the field of declared and prospective Republican presidential candidates in national polls and, with Sen. John McCain of Arizona, ranks either first or second in most of the important early states.
But his support for abortion rights and gay rights puts him sharply at odds with the majority of his party, a situation that many GOP strategists think will present a substantial obstacle to his hopes of winning the nomination. Giuliani also remains well behind McCain and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney in building a state-by-state political organization that will be crucial to navigating through early contests in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.
In an interview last night with commentator Sean Hannity on Fox News Channel, Giuliani sought to play down his differences with conservatives by pointing to his record of shrinking government, reducing taxes and fighting crime in New York and to his commitment to staying on "offense" against terrorists.
Giuliani restated his support for abortion rights and gay rights but said he believes marriage should remain a union between a man and a woman. He also defended his support for tough gun-control laws in New York, saying they helped reduce crime in the city while he was mayor.
Giuliani's challenge, aides believe, will be to convince Republican primary voters that, despite his disagreements with conservatives, he will not overturn what has been party orthodoxy on many social issues. One way of indicating that has been through his comments about judicial appointments, a topic he returned to last night.
"I think the appointment of judges that I would make would be very similar to, if not exactly the same as, the last two judges that were appointed" to the Supreme Court, he told Hannity.
Giuliani also believes that, in a time of global terrorism, personal attributes such as leadership, decisiveness and strength of character can win over conservative voters who may differ with him on social issues.
"The reality is you've got to be yourself," he said last night. "You've got to be who you are. You've got to be honest with people. If your views change on something, you've got to be willing to express it."
Giuliani has also moved aggressively to broaden what has been a largely New York-centered political team. Last week he announced that he was signing up the Tarrance Group, a respected Republican polling firm based in Alexandria. Earlier, he recruited Mike DuHaime, a former political director at the Republican National Committee, as campaign manager for his presidential exploratory committee and named former congressman Jim Nussle of Iowa to his national team.
On the fundraising front, he named Donna Henderson, who previously raised money for the National Rifle Association and other groups, as his national finance director. A detailed private strategy memo prepared last fall, which the New York Daily News obtained recently, outlined plans for Giuliani to raise $100 million this year for his bid.
Campaign officials called the release of the 140-page document a political dirty trick and said its contents were out of date. But the ambitiousness of the fundraising goal signaled an apparent serious intention to compete for the Republican nomination.
Skepticism about Giuliani's prospects of winning the party's nod remains high, particularly among Washington-based GOP strategists. "Inside Washington, I don't think anyone thinks he can get elected president," said a senior-level strategist not affiliated with a candidate.
Given his positions on abortion and gay rights, Giuliani would be likely to face heavy going in Iowa, whose caucuses are dominated by social and religious conservatives. He also could run into trouble with conservatives in South Carolina. He might be better positioned to compete in what could be a flurry of big-state contests on Feb. 5, 2008, particularly if he can raise the kind of money his leaked memo talks about.
Brent Seaborn, the campaign's strategy director, argued in a widely distributed memo that the polls accurately reflect voters' attitudes.
"Entering the 2008 primary season, Rudy Giuliani is uniquely positioned among Republican candidates because of his extremely high favorability ratings," he wrote, pointing to several national polls that show the former mayor winning the approval of more than six in 10 voters. Seaborn also argued that Giuliani is a recognized leader on key issues such as terrorism, the economy and fighting crime.