Well, This Will Be Interesting

Rudy Giulliani will publicly support abortion rights in his campaign:

After months of conflicting signals on abortion, Rudolph W. Giuliani is planning to offer a forthright affirmation of his support for abortion rights in public forums, television appearances and interviews in the coming days, despite the potential for bad consequences among some conservative voters already wary of his views, aides said yesterday.

At the same time, Mr. Giuliani’s campaign — seeking to accomplish the unusual task of persuading Republicans to nominate an abortion rights supporter — is eyeing a path to the nomination that would try to de-emphasize the early states in which abortion opponents wield a great deal of influence. Instead they would focus on the so-called mega-primary of Feb. 5, in which voters in states like California, New York and New Jersey are likely to be more receptive to Mr. Giuliani’s social views than voters in Iowa and South Carolina.

That approach, they said, became more appealing after the Legislature in Florida, another state they said would be receptive to Mr. Giuliani, voted last week to move the primary forward to the end of January.

The shift in emphasis comes as the Giuliani campaign has struggled to deal with the fallout from the first Republican presidential candidate debate, in which he gave halting and apparently contradictory responses to questions about his support for abortion rights.

Mr. Giuliani’s aides were concerned both because the responses opened him up to a new round of criticism from abortion critics, who have never been happy with the prospect of a Republican presidential candidate who supports abortion rights, while threatening to undercut his image as a tough-talking iconoclast who does not equivocate on tough issues.

The campaign’s approach would be a sharp departure from the traditional route to the Republican nomination in the last 20 years, in which Republicans have highlighted their antiabortion views.

Mr. Giuliani hinted at what aides said would be his uncompromising position on abortion rights yesterday in Huntsville, Ala., where he was besieged with questions about abortion and his donations to Planned Parenthood. “Ultimately, there has to be a right to choose,” he said.

Asked if Republicans would accept that, he said, “I guess we are going to find out.”

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