COLUMBIA, S.C. — He keeps an itinerary that has all the makings of a full-fledged presidential candidate: South Carolina this weekend, New Hampshire the one before.
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Which is what Rudy Giuliani, the former New York City mayor, says he’s leaning toward becoming.
“There’s a real good chance,” Giuliani told The Associated Press on Saturday, after a 30-minute speech and question-and-answer session with party leaders in South Carolina. In a year, they will put on the first-in-the-South GOP presidential primary.
On Giuliani’s first visit to New Hampshire last weekend since setting up the committee, he told reporters he’d received a tremendous amount of enthusiasm and support from people.
But he said he had not yet decided whether he could make a “unique contribution” toward strengthening the nation that would justify a run for president.
He has emphasized his steady hand dealing with the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. However, his moderate stances on gun control, abortion, gay rights and other social issues could be liabilities for him in a GOP presidential primary that includes hard-core conservatives as a central voting group.
For instance, in November, South Carolina voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional ban on same-sex unions.
“The fact is I appeal to conservative Christians the way I appeal to everyone else,” Giuliani said at a news conference. “I don’t think you have separate appeals to people.”
Giuliani formed a presidential exploratory committee in November to prepare for a possible bid for the GOP nomination in 2008. It lets him raise money and travel the country, gauging how much support there could be for him.
In his few first weeks, Giuliani took in $1.4 million. He collected donations online, and held a major fundraising event in New York in December.
Financial documents show that by the start of this year Giuliani had about $1 million available, having spent money to set up campaign headquarters, buy equipment and hire workers.
The Republicans’ top tier of candidates for 2008 includes Arizona Sen. John McCain, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback.
Giuliani’s visit to Columbia wrapped up a busy week in the state for White House hopefuls. Romney was in the capital on Tuesday and Brownback on Friday.
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