- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 6, 2007

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former New York City mayor whose popularity soared after his response to the September 11 terrorist attacks, suggested yesterday that a formal announcement for a White House bid was a matter of when, not if.

“Today we just took another step toward running for president,” the Republican said, hours after filing a “statement of candidacy” with the Federal Election Commission, indicating he would seek the presidency. The move took him closer to a full-fledged campaign.

“It’s a big step, an important one. Quite honestly, we’re probably ahead of schedule,” Mr. Giuliani told reporters in Long Island while campaigning with a state Senate candidate. “We still have to think about a formal announcement and how to do it, but this is a pretty strong step.”

Later, in an interview on Fox News’ “Hannity & Colmes,” Mr. Giuliani said: “I’m in this to win.”

Unlike Sen. John McCain of Arizona and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Mr. Giulianihad been somewhat ambiguous about whether he will pursue the Republican nomination, even though he had taken the initial steps.

In recent weeks, Mr. Giuliani’s cautious and noncommittal attitude had caused some critics to question whether he would abandon his bid even before formally entering the race, as he did in 2000 when considering a Senate campaign against Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Behind the scenes, the former mayor has been busy supplementing his cadre of New York loyalists with Washington-savvy political operatives, establishing a fundraising network and setting up a campaign headquarters — signs of a campaign going forward. Publicly, however, he had stopped short of committing to a run, insisting that he has to decide whether he can make a “unique contribution” to strengthen the country.

In November, he took the initial step of creating a committee to explore a candidacy but added the caveat that he was simply “testing the waters” — a provision that allows uncertain candidates to move forward without any commitment to seek a top spot on the ticket or the need to identify donors. At the time, Mr. Giuliani did not file an official statement declaring that he was a presidential candidate.

Yesterday’s steps, including eliminating the phrase “testing the waters,” put Mr. Giuliani on the same level legally as Mr. McCain and Mr. Romney, the other top-tier Republican candidates who have formed regular exploratory committees and filed statements of candidacy.

Despite being immensely popular in national polls, Mr. Giuliani faces hurdles to securing the Republican nomination because his liberal stances on issues such as gun control, abortion and homosexuality do not sit well with social conservatives. But conservatives also aren’t entirely sold on Mr. McCain or Mr. Romney, which could even the playing field for Mr. Giuliani.

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