Giuliani courts Republican voters at Rock Hill dinner

Presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani speaks at a York County Republican Party fundraiser Thursday at the Magnolia Room at Laurel Creek.
Presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani speaks at a York County Republican Party fundraiser Thursday at the Magnolia Room at Laurel Creek.

If Rudy Giuliani captures the Republican presidential nomination next year, he won't have to do much to change the stump speech he gave Thursday night in Rock Hill.

It took less than two minutes for Giuliani to reference Hillary Clinton, and he went on to speak her name more than a dozen times. He lambasted the three Democratic frontrunners for trying to import socialized health care to America. And at various points, he assailed their proposals as "a typical Democratic mistake" and "actually dumb."

But at no time in a 40-minute speech did Giuliani mention his Republican rivals, all of whom are competing closely in the polls in the early voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

The strategy is not new for the former New York City mayor, who campaigns as though he is already the GOP nominee in the apparent hope that voters will see it that way, too.

"You know why I love coming to South Carolina?," he asked at the outset. "There are more Republicans on that side of the room than in all of New York City."

The visit, held as a fundraiser for the York County Republican Party, drew about 250 people, though empty chairs dotted some of the tables in the Magnolia Room at Laurel Creek. The $150-per couple event will raise about $15,000, though exact numbers weren't yet tallied, said party activist Joe St. John.

Zeroing in on Hillary

Giuliani, who leads in many national polls, did not disappoint the dozens of listeners who wore small buttons emblazoned with "Hillary" and a diagonal red line through her name.

"Boy, she's just begun," he said, referring to her policies as "Hillary Care," "Hillary baby bonds" and "Hillary 401k checks." "Hillary has just begun to spend your money."

Giuliani said he has a recurring dream in which he sees French prime minister Nicolas Sarkozy sitting on a plane bound for the United States. While in midair, Sarkozy's plane nearly collides with a jet headed to France, and as the two aircraft pass by each other, Sarkozy spots three people waving to him through a window.

They are Clinton, John Edwards and Barack Obama.

"They would like to take the failed principles in France and try to bring them back to the U.S.," Giuliani said. "Does this make any sense to you?"

It was no surprise that in a speech tailor-made for a South Carolina audience, Giuliani avoided social and family values issues expected to hurt him in the Palmetto State, where evangelicals dominate the Republican base. Giuliani is pro-abortion rights and is on his third marriage.

"If you agreed with me on everything, I'd be nervous," he said, setting up a line he has repeated across the country: "I don't agree with myself on everything."

Immediately after his speech, Giuliani exited through a side door and pulled away in a motorcade, headed for Columbia where he has events scheduled this morning.

Related stories from Rock Hill Herald