Giuliani emerges as GOPís front runner
Republican presidential hopeful, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani gestures while speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, Friday, March 2, 2007. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Rudolph Giuliani
Former Mayor, NYC
Born: 05/28/1944
Birthplace: Brooklyn, NY
Religion: Catholic
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WASHINGTON -- For a thrice-married, pro-choice, gun-control-supporting, immigration-loving former New York City mayor who supposedly canít win the confidence of Christian conservatives, let alone the Republican presidential nomination, Rudolph Giuliani is sitting pretty now.

Riding his Sept. 11, 2001, image as "Americaís Mayor," heís defying predictions that his moderate social-policy positions and unseemly personal baggage would hurt him with conservatives. In fact, Giuliani received a raucous reception Friday when he spoke at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington.

"If we do it right with the spirit of America, the enemies that we think we have now in this war on terror are going to be friends of America" (like post-war Germany and Japan became).

While Giuliani was wooing the crowd in the ballroom, some Christian conservatives were in the halls grudgingly acknowledging his front-runner status.

Where he is now is on top.

Giulianiís surge came from increased support among white evangelical Protestants, the latest poll showed. Political experts had predicted that Giulianiís support for legalized abortion and gay rights would hamper him with religious voters, but not so far.

Giuliani also appears to the favorite among independents. In a USA Today/Gallup poll last month, independents gave him a 68 percent favorable rating, to 55 percent for McCain. (Clinton and Obama each had a 55 percent favorable rating.)

His appeal is rooted most in his image as a take-charge leader in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on New Yorkís World Trade Center.

Gary Bauer, the chairman of American Values, a group of social conservatives, said that the leadership that Giuliani exhibited on Sept. 11 and his tough talk on terror appeal to some religious conservatives who are concerned about Islamic radicalism.

But questions persist about whether Giuliani will have staying power once Americans get to know him beyond the heroic Sept. 11 figure.

Meanwhile, his personal life gave ample fodder to the cityís aggressive tabloids.

Then there are questions about Giulianiís management style. Critics complain about a fiery temper, an enormous and prickly ego and a my-way-or-the-highway autocratic style.

"To be associated with someone like that, I wouldnít vote for Giuliani," said Jeff Goldberg, 51, a conservative Republican from Clifton, N.J., just outside New York. "Besides, some of the methods he employed to clean up New York are illegal and unconstitutional."

But former New York City Democratic Mayor Ed Koch isnít so sure.

"But then heís the surprise candidate of 2008, so who knows?" Koch said.

The USA Today/Gallup survey was based on telephone interviews with 1,006 national adults, ages 18 and older, and conducted Feb. 9-11, 2007. The margin of error is plus or minus 3 percentage points. The Post-ABC News poll was a telephone survey of 1,082 adults, including an oversample of 86 black respondents. The survey was conducted Feb. 22-25 and has a margin of error or minus 3 percentage points.)