Urban Legend Rudy Drops Into Flyover Land

These days, Rudolph Giuliani is not coy about running for President.

“I would have to say, from my point of view, the reception has been very encouraging and the polls have been very encouraging,” said Mr. Giuliani as a crowd of fans grew around him—many of them holding “Giuliani for President 2008” flyers for him to autograph.

Mr. Giuliani was holding court in the clubhouse of Chandler’s Golf Club in Schaumburg, Ill. He had just finished up a $50,000 fund-raiser and rally for Republican Congressional candidate David McSweeney, and he was sitting at a small table where he could keep an eye on the Yankees game playing on a television above the clubhouse bar.

For the benefit of a pair of curious reporters, he laid out what is essentially the rationale for Giuliani ’08.

“People care about the war on terror—seven, eight out of the 10 people that I talk to think we are going to be attacked again,” he said.

Asked for the thousandth time how a pro-choice, pro-gay-rights Republican like himself might navigate a G.O.P. primary tilted towards conservatives, Mr. Giuliani lowered his eyes and gripped the salt and pepper shakers.

“Most voters are mature enough and sophisticated enough to realize you are never going to agree with somebody on everything,” he said, adding: “On choice, gay rights, protection of minorities, things like that, you are going to have difference of opinion.”

Certainly, those differences of opinion have done nothing to lessen Mr. Giuliani’s drawing power among Republicans all over the country. In their eyes, he’s still very much a hero of 9/11. Period.

That seemed to be the common sentiment in Schaumburg, a suburb of about 73,000 people, mostly white, wealthy and conservative. It is the home of Motorola, the giant Woodfield Mall and broad streets lined with boxy houses, healthy lawns and chain restaurants built around square parking lots.

In the morning, in front of an electronics store down the road from the golf club, Robert Jones, a 32-year-old Marine in desert fatigues who had just returned from six years in Iraq, said that he liked Mr. Giuliani’s toughness.

“He’s got the same attitude I have,” Mr. Jones said. “Whatever you have to do to fight terrorism, that’s what we need to do.”

Not everyone was as enthusiastic.

“I’m conservative and he’s liberal. He’s a Democrat with an R after his name,” said Thomas F. Wentland as he snipped a client’s hair in his barbershop. Rush Limbaugh spoke on the radio. Mr. Wentland kept cutting. “He’s a good strong leader, but I can’t vote for a guy who’s for abortion.”

This month alone, Mr. Giuliani is stumping and raising money for candidates in Washington, Oregon, Illinois, Rhode Island, Connecticut and the all-important primary state of New Hampshire. At each appearance, he’ll deliver a security-laden message guaranteed to bring down the house, steering the subject away from social issues by creating an environment where any concern short of life and death seems petty.

Sometimes, he can achieve this effect without even saying a word.

On Thursday afternoon, Mr. Giuliani made a late entrance at the fund-raiser. Mr. McSweeney, who had been in the middle of a mini-speech about abortion—“I am pro-life; I have been clear on that since the beginning”—spotted the former New York Mayor walking through the doors and immediately switched tack. “Remember on Sept. 11th,” he began. “Nineteen terrorists killed 3,000 Americans.”

Some 55 donors seated at round tables in the second-floor dining room picked at plates of pale-looking salad and lemon chicken and glanced over at Mr. Giuliani. He smiled as former Illinois Governor Jim Edgar introduced him as a “great American, Mayor Giuliano.”

The room was an idyllic enough setting, providing views through picture windows of baize-green hills and golfers in white caps and shirts. But when Mr. Giuliani took the stage, he evoked far darker stuff: visions of imminent danger and a government under political siege.

“If Nancy Pelosi is Speaker of the House, the President will be under investigation,” Mr. Giuliani said. “Don’t know if he will be impeached—I hope to God they wouldn’t be that out of control—but they certainly want to put him under all kinds of investigations.”

The country is at war, he reminded the crowd. “The President doesn’t deserve what the Democratic leadership in the House of Representatives is going to do to him.”

Shortly after Mr. Giuliani wrapped up his prepared remarks, a donor asked him about the seriousness of his Presidential ambitions.

“We have got a lot of good Republicans and some Democrats that we have to defeat in 2008, so I’m sure there will be a lot of good candidates in 2008. Maybe I’ll be one of them.”

He got a standing ovation.

Still, it was clear talking to some of the audience members afterwards that they were cheering Rudy the icon—not Rudy the candidate.

Asked if Mr. Giuliani had a chance of winning the Republican primary, Virginia Carr, a 73-year-old translator for the Department of Justice, said, “Not in this particular group.”

She personally found Mr. Giuliani to be “charming” and a “hero” and said she would gladly vote for him, but she added, “I don’t know about the South or the Midwest.”

Another donor, Ray Mena, a 44-year-old media executive, said that he disagreed with Mr. Giuliani’s position on social issues.

But Mr. Mena also said that he might be willing to overlook them—because the country needed a strong leader.

“Nobody’s perfect,” said Mr. Mena. “I think you have to weigh out all the options. I just think there are bigger issues in the grand scheme of things. Like security.”

After the 45-minute fund-raiser, Mr. McSweeney, the former governor and a small entourage, including Matthew Mahoney—a consultant at Mr. Giuliani’s Solutions America political-action committee—and a security detail, accompanied Mr. Giuliani downstairs and through the bar area, where the former Mayor paused to shake hands and sneak a peak at the Yankees. (They were trailing 1-0.)

“Oh, is this the game here?” he said, a Yankees World Series ring sparkling garishly on his finger. He watched an at-bat and then continued on through the kitchen to a political rally organized in the club’s reception room.

There, he was again introduced in almost embarrassingly hyperbolic language by Mr. McSweeney. (“A great American, probably a great future leader of this country—ladies and gentlemen, America’s Mayor, Rudy Giuliani!”) An audience of about 400 cheered, and a choir of children sang: “America, you raised me up to more than I can be.”

“Is Rudy going to run? That’s the $64,000 question,” said Linda Forestor, a 57-year-old college administrator who was standing in the crowd next to Terry Parke, a Republican Representative in the Illinois House of Representatives.

“That would be a fun race,” she said, as Mr. Giuliani began speaking about terrorism. “A real New Yorker versus a tourist New Yorker.”

After the rally, Mr. Giuliani posed for dozens of pictures and autographed scores of flyers. Before climbing into a blue Cadillac S.U.V., a supporter ran up and announced,“Johnny Damon just hit a three-run homer.”

“All right!” yelled Mr. Giuliani, and everyone was suddenly a Yankees fan.

“He has that star power and that charisma,” said G.O.P. State Representative Paul Froehlich in an interview after the rally. “If it looks like foreign policy is the foremost concern, then I’d say yes, he has a shot for the nomination. If it’s social concerns, then probably not.”

Urban Legend Rudy Drops Into Flyover Land