Wed, Feb 07, 2007 - Page 7 News List

Giuliani inching closer to starting US presidential bid

IN THE RUNNING Giuliani faces hurdles. His moderate stances on issues such as gun control, abortion and gay rights do not sit well with hardline social conservatives

AP , WASHINGTON

Rudy Giuliani, the former New York City mayor who earned international attention for his strong response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, hinted on Monday that a formal presidential announcement was a matter of when, not if.

"Today we just took another step toward running for president," the Republican said, hours after filing a so-called "statement of candidacy" with the Federal Election Commission, which moved him closer to a full-fledged campaign.

"It's a big step, an important one. Quite honestly, we're probably ahead of schedule," Giuliani told reporters in Long Island while campaigning with a state Senate candidate. "We still have to think about a formal announcement and how to do it, but this is a pretty strong step."

Later, in an interview on Fox News' Hannity & Colmes program, Giuliani was more direct. "I'm in this to win," he said. "My campaign is going to be about the future."

Unlike chief Republican rivals John McCain and Mitt Romney, Giuliani had thus far been ambiguous about whether he would pursue the Republican nomination, even though he had taken the initial steps.

In recent weeks, Giuliani's cautious and noncommittal attitude caused some critics to question whether he would abandon his bid even before formally entering the race, as he did in 2000 when he was considering a Senate campaign against Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Fighting back, Giuliani started to sound and act like a strong contender lately, traveling to the early primary states of New Hampshire and South Carolina and arguing that his vision for the future and performance in the past would make him a formidable Republican nominee.

Behind the scenes, he has been busy supplementing his cadre of New York loyalists with Washington-savvy political operatives, establishing a fundraising network and setting up a campaign headquarters -- signs of a campaign moving forward.

Publicly, however, he had stopped short of committing to a run, insisting he had to decide whether he could make a "unique contribution" to help strengthen the country -- his barometer for whether to run.

"There's a real good chance," Giuliani said on Saturday in South Carolina, another coy answer to what had been a constant question on the campaign trail.

However slight, the shift in campaign organization -- coupled with his public comments on Monday -- indicated Giuliani was liking the response he has received as he gauges support while traveling the country.

In November, Giuliani took the preliminary step of creating a committee to explore a candidacy but added the caveat that he was simply "testing the waters" -- a provision that allows truly uncertain candidates to move forward with no commitment to seek a top spot on the ticket nor the need to identify donors. At the time, Giuliani also did not file an official statement declaring he was a presidential candidate and indicating he would seek the presidency as a Republican should he decide to go forward.

Monday's steps, including eliminating the phrase "testing the waters," put Giuliani on the same level legally as McCain and Romney, the other top-tier Republican candidates who have formed regular exploratory committees and filed statements of candidacy.

Despite being immensely popular in national polls, Giuliani faces hurdles to securing the Republican nomination state by state. His moderate stances on issues such as gun control, abortion and gay rights do not sit well with hardcore social conservatives who are a crucial voting group in the nominating contests. His two divorces could be obstacles as well.

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