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Analysis: Giuliani lead offers no guarantees

Analysis: Giuliani lead offers no guarantees

WASHINGTON (AP) — Don’t be fooled by Rudy Giuliani’s ranking atop national polls. A lot can shake up the GOP presidential field — and his opponents are counting on it. Among the factors: • Fred Thompson is giving chase to Giuliani nationally. Thompson, Mitt Romney and John McCain are in strong contention in early voting states. Romney leads in Iowa, while New Hampshire and other early states are up for grabs. • Influential conservatives who historically have dominated GOP primaries have not coalesced around one candidate. • Roughly 18 percent of Republicans remain undecided, including more women than men, according to a new Associated Press-Ipsos poll. • Money is on Romney’s side; the multimillionaire already has given $17.5 million to his campaign. A look at the latest AP-Ipsos poll: ——— GIULIANI: He leads the field with 27 percent, down from a March high of 35 percent. The former New York mayor has bucked conventional wisdom thus far. He has been married three times and supports abortion rights and gay rights yet is showing staying power in a contest in which conservative voters typically dominate. He has a slight edge among most demographics, and has gained some ground among white evangelical Christians. His central argument — he can beat the Democratic nominee — appears to be resonating. A national celebrity following the Sept. 11 attacks, Giuliani has embraced the singular moniker “Rudy.” It is the main logo of his campaign, and most people refer to him by first name only. They seem to feel like they know him. His what-you-see-is-what-you-get persona stokes that perception. But his oddities — answering his mobile phone during speeches — and his frequent odes to his beloved New York — cheering the Yankees everywhere he goes — as well as his whiff of arrogance — “I’m probably one of the four or five best known Americans in the world” — may turn off voters. ——— THOMPSON: He ranks a close second with 23 percent in his first month as a full-fledged candidate. The actor-politician watched his stock grow as backers compared him to Ronald Reagan before he entered the race. But his low-key style has not translated into charisma. He stumbles over questions from reporters and bumbles over his stump speech. The script is laden with broad pronouncements of a need to fix the country’s ills but offers few specific solutions. He also is fighting the notion that he is lazy, given his languid pace of campaigning. What he lacks in substance and energy, the former Tennessee senator makes up in personal and physical traits. His Southern accent, plainspoken style and homespun phrases give him a guy-next-door quality. His commanding 6-foot-5-inch frame, deep baritone, and weathered brow give him a presidential air. Also on the plus side, Thompson attracted a solid 80,000 donors contributing $12.7 million since June. He hopes to win over disgruntled Republicans with his pitch: Not only can he beat the Democrats but he also has conservative positions on cultural issues. He runs about even with Giuliani among conservatives. ——— MCCAIN: He slipped to 13 percent following a disastrous summer in which the one-time presumptive front-runner bled money and staff. As fall began, the Arizona senator embraced the Iraq war anew and intensified efforts to make his case that he is the most qualified to be a wartime president. Indeed, his greatest asset is his war-hero biography and decades of experience on military matters. Audiences respect his service — and his depth of knowledge on just about any issue — even if they disagree with his sometimes against-the-grain positions. At 71, he is a tireless campaigner who relishes hand-to-hand politicking and mixing it up with voters. His wisecracking schtick often is a winner, but he sometimes runs the risk of coming across as a grumpy old man unfit for the Oval Office. Voters appear to appreciate McCain’s blunt honesty. But it frequently has caused him to clarify his remarks or apologize after his comments offended one group or another. Die-hard backers from his 2000 run give him a base of support, yet McCain is fighting to convince others that he is not a has-been. ——— ROMNEY: He is holding at 11 percent even though he has spent about $10 million to broadcast ads in key states and nationwide. He is faring better in Iowa and New Hampshire, but victories there are not certain. Backers privately acknowledge his support is a mile wide and an inch deep. The former Massachusetts governor looks and acts the part of a president. He is physically fit, impeccably dressed, handsome and intelligent with deft management skills and a grasp of the issues. But he has struggled to connect with voters and is battling a perception that he is too perfect, robotic almost, and thus inauthentic. Not helping matters is Romney’s effort to cast himself as a conservative even though he ran as a moderate in previous elections in his Democratic state. His shift to the right — and complete reversal on abortion — continues to dog him, and he has failed to become the conservative wing’s favorite candidate. His message that he is an outsider who can bring change to Washington and the GOP could attract disaffected Republicans. His personal wealth is a wild card. ——— THE REST: Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor, has been considered the most likely underdog to break into the top tier given his strong communication skills. At 7 percent support in the poll, he has been hampered by abysmal fundraising. None of the other five long-shot Republicans gets above 1 percent. Still, Ron Paul, the anti-war Texas congressman who once ran for president as a Libertarian candidate, raised some eyebrows with a $5 million fundraising haul over the past three months. ——— Editor’s note — Liz Sidoti covers presidential politics for The Associated Press. Published in The Messenger on 10.08.07

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