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Giuliani seeks GOP support during speech in Tuscaloosa

TUSCALOOSA (AP) — Presidential candidate Rudolph Giuliani appealed for GOP votes and campaign donations in Alabama on Wednesday using the state's universal language — football.

Speaking in a University of Alabama conference center named for the late Crimson Tide football coach Paul "Bear" Bryant, Giuliani told Tuscaloosa County Republicans that the best defense against terrorists is a good offense.

"The only way to keep us safe is to be on offense against them," said Giuliani, speaking to a crowd of more than 800.

It's the same with the economy, Giuliani said. Republicans need to maintain control of the White House and take back Congress to preserve President Bush's tax cuts and prevent Democrats from imposing a European-style "collectivist economy."

"(Democrats) want to put us back on defense with our economy," said the former New York mayor.

Rick Mitchell walked away impressed, with a Giuliani sticker on his lapel and a campaign sign in hand for his daughter.

It's hard not to like Giuliani because of his performance during the Sept. 11 terror attacks, Mitchell said, but Alabama voters might not be ready to accept his support of abortion rights and a personal history that includes two failed marriages.

"People in Alabama are very conservative, and I think some of those positions could hurt him," said Mitchell, a counselor.

Retired political scientist Bill Stewart said GOP voters in Alabama seem more interested in winning in 2008 than in imposing any moral litmus test upon Giuliani.

"I think people are willing to subordinate their views on the social issues because of the strong leadership, particularly on the war against terrorism," said Stewart, who attended Giuliani's speech.

Giuliani also planned a fundraiser at the Bryant football museum on the university campus. A $1,000-a-plate fundraiser was planned in Huntsville, along with a tour of the Army's Redstone Arsenal and a news conference. Giuliani was scheduled to end the day greeting diners at a Birmingham seafood restaurant and supporters at a $1,200-a-person fundraiser at a Mountain Brook home.

Spokesman Elliott Bundy said the campaign would not immediately disclose the amount raised by the Alabama appearances.

A poll published late last month showed Giuliani and Sen. John McCain of Arizona running about even in Alabama ahead of a crowded field of Republican presidential hopefuls. Giuliani last visited the state on April 10 for a pair of fundraisers.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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