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Giuliani: I’m the only viable GOP candidate

By Brian Bakst

Associated Press

ST. PAUL — Rudy Giuliani, campaigning in the city that will host next year’s GOP convention, proclaimed himself as the only Republican presidential candidate who can get the nomination and step into a viable coast-to-coast campaign.

"I’m the nominee who can make this a 50-state campaign," he told a crowd packed into a corner cafe on Thursday. "If one of my opponents gets nominated, we will be back to a 20- or 25-state campaign."

"We will be back to having only certain states Republicans can win and other states Republicans have to give away," he said, citing California and New York as examples.

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Giuliani downplayed the entrance of former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson into the presidential race. Giuliani said he didn’t think the campaign had changed for him with the addition of the new candidate.

"I don’t run against any other Republican, I run against Democrats," he said.

The former mayor of New York City breezed through Minnesota, shaking hands at the cafe, sharing coffee with a few patrons and then heading off to a fundraiser at a country club in the suburbs.

He spent 10 minutes discussing his immigration views with Julia Nikrad, a 27-year-old who came to Minnesota from Kyrgyzstan and is now a U.S. citizen.

"I would build a technological fence around the country. A physical fence is fine, you can do that in certain areas, maybe 600 miles or 700 miles. But more than a physical fence, we need a technological fence," he said, explaining that it would help agents better apprehend illegal border crossers.

When Nikrad pressed Giuliani on how to handle immigrants already in the country, he said securing the borders had to come first. But he also wants a tamperproof ID card for all who enter the country.

Giuliani briefly addressed a prominent local issue — the collapsed interstate bridge and what could be done to prevent similar disasters.

He avoided directly answering a reporter’s question about whether he would support a gas tax increase for infrastructure repairs, calling it a kneejerk response and saying Congress could reduce earmarks if they need to free up money.

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"If there wasn’t money for bridges to nowhere, we might be able to fix the bridges to somewhere," Giuliani said.

Irene Hewitt, 80, of the Minneapolis suburb of Wayzata, was in the cafe and bought into Giuliani’s view that he was the most electable of the Republican candidates.

"He’s a moderate," she said. "He’ll draw in the independents. He’s the only one that can win. He’s absolutely my man."

The Republican National Convention is scheduled for Sept. 1-4, 2008, and is expected to draw 35,000 delegates, media members and high-level politicians, along with thousands of protesters.

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