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Giuliani gets warm reception in Calif.

Ex-N.Y. mayor tests waters for presidential run

Rudy Giuliani got four standing ovations Saturday. Rudy Giuliani got four standing ovations Saturday.

SACRAMENTO -- Rudy Giuliani went west over the weekend to learn whether his brand of Republican politics had a chance among party members significantly more conservative than he . By the time he had received a fourth standing ovation Saturday at the California Republican Party convention, the answer seemed clear.

Comparing the US fight against terrorism to the Civil War and the Cold War, Giuliani told about 750 of his party's faithful that failure in Iraq would turn that country into a "massive headquarters for terrorism."

"Having had a job where I didn't have any choice but to make a decision," said the former mayor of New York, "prepares you as best you can be prepared to be the president of the United States."

Asked in a subsequent news conference when he would formally announce his candidacy for president, Giuliani quipped, "If you go back to my speech, I think you'll find one. We'll figure out how to do it in five places so we'll get more attention."

As mayor during the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Giuliani gained worldwide recognition for his leadership in the face of a tragic disaster, propelling the former federal prosecutor onto the national political stage.

Giuliani stands high in polls of Republican voters, but the Brooklyn-born son of a former convict has significant obstacles in his quest to become president.

He has been in the private sector for the past six years; he still supports the war while the rest of the country is shifting against it; he would only be the second Catholic to win the White House; and his social views -- he is pro choice, pro gun control, and pro gay rights -- are at odds with those of much of his party.

Still, Giuliani's 45-minute, sometimes meandering speech was received warmly by party enthusiasts, a marked contrast to the tepid response they gave Friday night to their Republican governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Giuliani called for a broadening of the war on terrorism into a war of ideology similar to the ideological battle in the Cold War between the West and the Soviet Union.

"A much bigger part is about ideas," he said, and "the hearts and minds of people. We've got to get better at selling our life, our economy."

Giuliani, 62, didn't shy away from some of the controversial positions that have put him at loggerheads with the party faithful.

He took the opportunity to praise President Bush several times, at one point seemingly comparing him to Abraham Lincoln. In the news conference, Giuliani said the United States was "very, very fortunate" to have Bush as president, crediting his decision to consider pre emptive strikes against potential enemies as "very, very brave."

Giuliani also waded into the illegal immigration issue. Many GOP members in California consider it one of the most important issues the nation faces, and a significant portion do not support any program to grant citizenship to long-term illegal residents of the United States. Giuliani, however, said he supports plans to "allow people to earn status."

"I'm a Christian, and his views on a lot of social issues are to the left of mine," said Larry Stirling, a retired state Superior Court judge from San Diego. "But if you have to make a trade-off, I'll make the trade-off for Giuliani. He's been through a trial by fire."