Giuliani seen scoring points on New Hampshire tour
ERROL, N.H. — “Rudy Here Tomorrow at 2:30!” a sign announced on the front door of the Northern Exposure Restaurant in this 310-person town. The word “tomorrow” was crossed out, and written over it was the word “today.”
Everywhere former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani went on an eight-hour blitz up and down the northern neck of New Hampshire on Nov. 2, his reputation — and fame from those September days more than six years ago — preceded him. Everywhere he went on his hundred-mile trip along the Androscoggin River, people came from miles around just to get a glimpse of the man they simply call “Rudy.”
“I like what Rudy did on 9/11,” Bernie Ross, 67, said shortly before the mayor arrived at the diner, deep in the Republican-stronghold snowmobile country. The walls were stocked with the heads of deer bucks, and the patrons — most in sweatshirts and several wearing Boston Red Sox hats — also called the Republican front-runner for president “Rudy.”
“I’m taken toward Rudy,” said Gail Fisher, who came from nearby Canaan, Vt. “What he did on 9/11 was fabulous. And he’s pretty much an honest man.” Pretty much? “That’s pretty good for a politician,” she said with a laugh.
“I think Rudy’s the one guy who can give Hillary a run for her money,” said her husband, Ray Dubreil, referring to Democratic front-runner, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Despite reports that his campaign was prepared to abandon this state’s first-in-the-nation primary, as well as Iowa’s Jan. 3 caucuses, and do battle in later primary states, Mr. Giuliani has spent the past few weeks in every nook and cranny of the Granite State.
Stop No. 1
With a tiny entourage — a campaign staffer or two, plus a couple of bodyguards (former NYPD officers) — Mr. Giuliani’s silver Cadillac wound its way along mountainous Route 16 from the Berlin airport to the one-stoplight town of Errol, about 25 miles from the Canadian border.
Inside the diner, he looked out of place — an expensive pinstriped blue suit, red tie, black shoes and omnipresent U.S. flag pin. He worked the room hard, shaking everyone’s hands and eventually sitting down with a tableful of children to sign autographs and talk about their Halloween costumes.
“You know I’m running for president of the United States, right?” he said with a sly smile. “It’s pretty exciting. Sometimes when I say that I sort of pinch myself and say, ‘I am?’ But the reality is that this is a very important election and you are the first primary in the country and I would very much like to have your support.”
Mr. Ross, who labels himself a “Reagan Republican,” lobbed a softball question at the mayor about New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s plan to give illegal aliens driver’s licenses — a question that tonguetied Mrs. Clinton a few days before and led to accusations of waffling for the former first lady.
“I’m going to give you my answer real quick: I’m against it. Hillary was against it, then for it, then partially against it, then partially for it, all in the same answer, within one minute.” Just then a phone in the diner rings. “Maybe she’s calling right now to change her position again,” the mayor says with his trademark grin. “I remember last time John Kerry was accused of being a flip-flopper — she makes him look like an amateur,” he adds to much laughter.
Stop No. 2
Dixville Notch, an idyllic retreat in the White Mountains, touts itself as “first in the nation” because the tiny town of just more than two dozen registered voters opens its polls at 12:01 a.m. on Election Day. In 2004, President Bush defeated John Kerry 19-7, with voters lining up inside the luxury Balsams Grand Resort Hotel, built in 1866.
The town of 31 does the same exercise on primary day, which is expected to be Jan. 8. But for the mayor’s visit, there were more than 100 people in the John Dix Social Room overlooking a lake and valley. They were a different class of voters from that at the Northern Exposure, and they milled about smartly, some in suits and ties, others with jackets, the women in dresses.
Standing in front of a roaring fire, Mr. Giuliani said his qualifications are not limited to September 11.
“I’m talking about all the situations we faced in the city of New York, the budget crisis, the crime crisis, the crisis of confidence we had in the city. [. . .] That’s pretty good training for being president of the United States.”
While Mr. Giuliani seemed unprepared for the questions on rural issues, he was firm on one of the subjects that has most alienated conservative voters: his pro-choice stance on abortion.
“We’d be better off without abortion,” he said to a question from a woman who would identify herself only as Carole. “But ultimately, I think that’s a choice I have to leave to the person to make, in their own conscience.”
Carole’s soft support of Mr. Giu- liani ended at that moment.
“I don’t think I can support him now. I was undecided, but now I know,” she said.
But he kept another female fan — Sophie, who said: “He was cool. I still like Hillary but I’ve turned on to Rudy.”
Stop No. 3
The mayor was lucky to get top billing at the Town & Country Motor Inn. The sign out front said: “Welcome Mayor Rudy and Elvis.” Elvis was in the house: Ray Guillemette Jr., an impersonator of America’s greatest rock icon, was performing in the Inn’s spacious dining room.
Mr. Giuliani did his stump speech again, slamming the Democrats proclivity to tax: “They define rich as anyone who pays taxes.” He honed his criticism of Mrs. Clinton when asked again about the illegal alien licenses in New York. To howls of laughter, he said, playing the role of Mrs. Clinton, “I’m for it; I’m against it — I’m for it and against it, and I want to be your president.”
“Give me a break. If you think a question about driver’s licenses is a tough question, a gotcha question, you’re not ready for [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad,” he said, referring to the president of Iran, who is reportedly seeking nuclear weapons and calling for the destruction of Israel, a U.S. ally.
While some of the 100 or so who heard the speech flocked around Mr. Giuliani, seeking photos and autographs, others headed to the Motor Inn’s dining room to catch “Elvis.”
At one point in the show, one of the men in the mostly elderly crowd knocked over a small bush by a window. “Careful there,” the fake Elvis said. “I don’t like Bush, either. Hey, where’s Rudy Giuliani? Where’s Rudy Giuliani?”
The mayor already had headed off to his last event of the day, a meetand-greet in nearby Berlin at the Northland Restaurant and Dairy Bar. But he had made another fan in Gorham.
“I’m not political, but I like Rudy,” “Elvis” said in his hotel room in between sets. “I really do.” He even offered an autographed card for the mayor, inscribing it: “Rudy, Get ’er done! Good luck. Elvis.”
Presidential hopeful Rudolph W. Giuliani embarked on an eight-hour tour of northern New Hampshire on Nov. 2, where he was greeted warmly by would-be voters.