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Giuliani viewed as Republican `wild card' in '08 presidential race

Former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani has the record, reputation, and travel schedule of a serious White House contender. But it will not be easy turning ``America's mayor" into America's president.

Riding high on the acclaim for his leadership in New York after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Giuliani is a huge draw on the Republican fund-raising circuit and one of the party's most popular figures.

Some opinion polls show him joining Arizona Senator John McCain at the top of a crowded field of potential Republican candidates seeking to win the 2008 election and succeed President Bush in January 2009 .

But Giuliani's support for abortion and gay rights is considered likely to anger conservatives who wield considerable power in Republican primaries. And his willingness to trade a lucrative and stress-free private life for the mud pit of a presidential campaign remains uncertain.

``Giuliani is a real wild card in the race," said Republican consultant Whit Ayres.

``If he were any other normal politician you would dismiss his chances out of hand because so many of his positions are so far out of the Republican mainstream. But he's not any other politician, he's an authentic American hero whose leadership after 9/11 showed perfect political pitch."

Giuliani, 62, says he is evaluating his support and finances for a possible White House bid and will make a decision after November's congressional elections.

``That is something I'm seriously thinking about," he said of a presidential race before appearing at a fund-raiser for Maryland Governor Robert Ehrlich in Baltimore, the last stop on a tour that included the battleground states of Pennsylvania and Ohio.

Giuliani has earned millions as a consultant and motivational speaker since leaving office, and avoided the kind of public scrutiny that a political campaign brings. But that could all change quickly if he runs again.

Many Republicans, particularly candidates grateful for his help, are certain of Giuliani's appeal.

``He would be the strongest possible candidate of the present field," Ehrlich said. ``Philosophically, his views are in the mainstream of where Maryland is."

Like McCain, Giuliani has supported the Iraq war and Bush's war on terrorism. ``The president is doing a good job; the country is in better shape than is sometimes presented," Giuliani said during an appearance in Pennsylvania for Republican Lynn Swann, who is running for governor.

If national security concerns and terrorism threats still dominate the national political climate in 2008, Giuliani's decisive leadership in New York could trump any doubts about him on social issues.

``The issues could break in his favor. There are a lot of social-issue conservatives who place terror above all other issues," said Fred Siegel, a professor at the Cooper Union in New York City and author of a book on Giuliani. ``After [Hurricane] Katrina, politicians were saying `Where is our Giuliani?' He doesn't need to do anything to make himself prominent in these situations."

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