BRETTON WOODS -- Rudy Guiliani's visit to New Hampshire began on Friday with Girl Scout cookie orders, Sept. 11 memories and no sign that the former New York City mayor's popularity has faded.
Giuliani, a Republican who is mulling a White House run, renewed his mantle, "America's Mayor" and reminded business leaders in New Hampshire's North Country that he shepherded New York through the aftermath of Sept. 11.
Even when buying cookies, a Girl Scout told him her cousin died in Iraq. Over 400 people attended the event at the Mount Washington Hotel, organizers said.
"I kept thinking, it was my job to lift my eyes up and get everyone else's' eyes lifted up, and look toward the future," Giuliani said. "I kept thinking, people who live in freedom, like we do, even if (they) seem crushed for a while, have much more strength than those who live in oppression."
Throughout his remarks, he repeatedly returned to Sept. 11, even when mentioning immigration reform. His speech didn't address his moderate social stances on abortion and gay marriage that could prove difficult in a crowded primary battle -- and the audience didn't force it.
"That doesn't matter," said Jan Mercieri of Littleton, who wanted the former mayor to sign a coffee-table book about Sept. 11. Giuliani signed the collection of New York Times obituaries, "To Chief Joe."
Mercieri, who describes herself as an independent, said she would vote for Giuliani "any day of the week." Sept. 11, she said, was a defining moment and Giuliani should be rewarded.
It was the images of the mayor traipsing through dust-caked Lower Manhattan and his strong reassurance to his city and country that was central to the visit. Giuliani also resisted openings to attack Democrats.
"I'm optimistic the Democratic Congress and President Bush will figure out how to do things together. It looks like on Iraq, we're not off to a good start. ... You can have a different view on Iraq and that doesn't make you better or worse than me."
On Iraq, Giuliani didn't delve too deeply into the unpopular war. In chatting with reporters, he tied it to the larger war on terrorism -- and linked it to his time in New York City.
"The war in Iraq is very important," Giuliani said. "It's very important it go correctly. The war on terror is much broader than the war in Iraq."
He took, however, a bipartisan shot at politicians who govern according to poll results.
"That does not make them leaders. That makes them actors, not leaders," he said. "If I take a poll and figure out what you want me to say and then repeat it to you, I'm an actor, not a leader."
Retail politics, coupled with his experiences from Sept. 11, could help his efforts. He hasn't said whether he will run, but his comments Friday night made clear suggested he's considering it.
Giuliani joked his wife might stay and ski in the North Country, he might come back and play golf and "maybe we'll come back and do some politics, too."
He said he hasn't decided to run. "That may turn out to be more up to you than me," he said.
Some in the audience were ready to vote for him on the spot.
"I think they'll see a mayor who loves his city and his country," said Ellen Malessa, a nurse at the Littleton hospital who claims she went to the same Brooklyn school as the former mayor. "Everyone sympathized with New York at that moment. He was in the spotlight. He got us through it."
Before his remarks at the Littleton Chamber of Commerce dinner, he stopped for a photo opportunity with local Girl Scouts.
"I'm buying your cookies," said Giuliani, who gave 10-year-old Monica Carroll $80 for 20 boxes of cookies. "You can tell your mom to vote for me if you want."
Carroll told the ex-mayor a cousin had died in Iraq. He touched her shoulder, offered his condolences and thanked her.