Giuliani tests waters, warns of Republican debt risk

Reuters News
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Posted: Jul 14, 2011 4:29 PM
Giuliani tests waters, warns of Republican debt risk

By Jason McLure

HAMPTON, New Hampshire (Reuters) - Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, weighing a second run for the White House, warned on Thursday that Republicans risked being blamed if the U.S. defaults on its debt.

Speaking in the seacoast town of Hampton, New Hampshire, Giuliani said a default could hurt the Republican Party for "10 years."

"We have to recognize as Republicans that we don't control the entire government. We control the House of Representatives. They (Democrats) control the senate and the presidency. We should not put the country into default," Giuliani said.

Giuliani has visited the key early primary state of New Hampshire four times this year to gauge support.

A poor showing in the state's 2008 primary effectively doomed Giuliani's campaign after he at one point was seen as the front-runner. The New Yorker finished fourth, with just nine percent of the vote.

On Thursday Giuliani said he would decide by mid-September whether to make another bid for the Republican nomination.

Giuliani, who in the past emphasized his anti-terrorism credentials after the September 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington, is now focusing on President Barack Obama's handling of the economy.

"If you look at President Obama and the terrible record he has in managing our economy, you don't have confidence he can lead us to growth," he told a meeting of Republican women.

Giuliani admits he ran a poor campaign in New Hampshire in 2008, and said on Thursday that he would focus more on taking questions from small audiences and listening to voters than he did during his last run.

"We would conduct highly orchestrated events that looked like presidential press conferences," he said. "Instead of me standing up here talking to you we'd be playing music. I don't know why we did that, but we did."

At a point in the campaign where name recognition is important, Giuliani has polled between second and fourth in some Granite State surveys this year, despite not having formally entered the race. In a national CNN poll taken in late May, Giuliani led all Republican contenders.

Giuliani called on Congressional Republicans to be flexible in negotiations over spending cuts and raising the federal debt limit. When pressed on what flexibility meant, though, he said taxes should not be raised "under any circumstances."

Giuliani may have a chance to topple frontrunner Mitt Romney in a state where moderate Republicans outnumber Tea Party and religious conservatives, said Andrew Smith, pollster at the University of New Hampshire.

"Sixty percent of the electorate is moderate, and you've got a bunch of candidates fighting over the 40 percent" that are conservative, said Smith. "You essentially have Romney by himself in the big pool."

Giuliani's two divorces and past support for gay rights might not be a major liability in New Hampshire, but could fall flat in more socially conservative parts of the country.

"He's a moderate Northeast Republican and New Hampshire primary voters are by and large moderate Northeast Republicans," said Smith.

Dennis Hale, a political scientist at Boston College, was more skeptical about Giuliani's appeal. "He's a conservative in New York, but you don't have to be real conservative to be a conservative in New York."

(Reporting by Jason McLure in Hampton; Editing by Ros Krasny and Jerry Norton)