Giuliani stresses national security, electability

In an interview to air Sunday, he speaks of a fund to ease Florida's property insurance crisis.

By ADAM C. SMITH, Times Political Editor
Published September 8, 2007

ST. PETERSBURG - Proving once again that he's not your father's front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, Rudy Giuliani said Friday that he disagreed with Republican efforts to impeach Bill Clinton.

"I didn't think ultimately Bill Clinton should have been impeached," the Republican who could face Hillary Clinton in general election said in a Political Connections interview.

That may not be a standard red-meat answer for a Republican primary candidate, but the former New York mayor making his 14th Florida campaign trip this year is hardly a typical Republican Party favorite.

Basking in the lasting glow of his Sept. 11 leadership while campaigning in Pinellas County and Orlando on Friday, Giuliani stressed national security and electability, rather than the sort of hot-button social issues that are thought to be critical to winning the Republican nomination.

"For me every day is an anniversary of Sept. 11," Giuliani said after reviewing emergency response equipment at the Pinellas Sheriff's Office with Attorney General Bill McCollum and Sheriff Jim Coats. "If we don't talk about Sept. 11, you can't prepare to try to avoid another Sept. 11."

He also attracted an enthusiastic crowd of nearly 500 for a Pinellas GOP "Reagan Day dinner" fundraiser at the Renaissance Vinoy Resort and Golf Club in St. Petersburg.

Giuliani, in the interview to air Sunday on Bay News 9, talked up the importance of a national catastrophic fund to help alleviate Florida's property insurance crisis, and he predicted Barack Obama would wind up as Clinton's running mate. Republicans need "the strongest possible" nominee to take on Clinton-Obama, and Giuliani pegged himself as the guy.

While many Republicans remain skeptical that a thrice-married supporter of abortion rights and gun control can win the nomination, the 63-year-old New Yorker said he's the best prepared to lead the county and the best equipped to win the general election.

"If one of (the other Republicans) is nominated a year from now, immediately they will not be campaigning in roughly half the country. They'll give up New York, they'll give up California, they'll give up New Jersey and Connecticut," he said. "I know they say they won't, but they will.

"I am competitive in all of those states. I can be a nationwide candidate for the Republican Party - and every poll polls shows I have by far the best chance of carrying Florida."

The Giuliani interview airs at 11 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. on Bay News 9.

Polls show Giuliani leading the Republican field in Florida, with newly announced candidate Fred Thompson in second place. The actor and former Tennessee senator is campaigning as the consistent conservative in the race, but he and Giuliani are on the same page on impeaching Clinton.

Thompson in 1999 was one of the few Republicans who found Clinton "not guilty" on perjury charges in the articles of impeachment, though he found him guilty of obstruction of justice. Arizona Sen. John McCain found Clinton guilty on both counts, and Mitt Romney, in the private sector at the time, has not weighed in on the matter, according to his campaign.

Giuliani made sure not to leave Bill Clinton entirely alone: "So much time was spent on other stuff in Clinton's years, good and bad, that the biggest mistake he ever made doesn't get the focus it deserves - and that is gutting our military," he said, not mentioning that the post-Cold War reduction in military spending started under the first President George Bush and continued under Clinton with bipartisan congressional support.

Adam C. Smith can be reached at asmith@sptimes.com or (727)893-8241.