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Giuliani 'very disappointed' that Bloomberg has left GOP

Celeste Katz
New York Daily News (MCT)

DES MOINES, Iowa - Presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani isn't thrilled about New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg jilting the Republican Party but - at least publicly - he isn't too concerned that they will go head-to-head for the White House.

Giuliani, fresh off trying to persuade voters here of his appeal as a tax-cutting fiscal conservative, said Wednesday he's "very disappointed" Bloomberg has declared himself unaffiliated with a party - a move many think portends an 11th-hour jump into the 2008 race.

But as for a potential faceoff with Bloomberg, Giuliani said it's too early to speculate: "How do we know if he's going to run? How do we know if I'm going to be the candidate? I think I am ... (Bloomberg) says he's not running. I've got to take him at his word."

Although he called Bloomberg a friend, Giuliani framed his feelings in the most practical of terms: He supported Bloomberg for mayor in 2001, he said, because he felt the billionaire businessman was unlikely to wipe out many of Giuliani's programs.

"I worked very hard to get Mike elected for my reasons, and my reasons were to preserve the things I thought were so important about the turnaround of New York City. He has done everything that he could to complete that, so I have no objection," Giuliani said.

"Everyone has to make their own decisions about this," Giuliani said of former Democrat Bloomberg casting off the Republican cloak he donned to run for mayor in 2001. "Because I endorse somebody, they don't owe anything to me. I don't owe anything to them - except to criticize them if they don't do it right, and to support them if they do it the right way."

Giuliani said he isn't worried that any of the possible late starters - Bloomberg, Fred Thompson, Newt Gingrich and Al Gore - will run. "God bless `em. They should," Giuliani said. "They should get their message out to the American people."

Giuliani carried a specific message to the Hawkeye State on Wednesday, his first visit since announcing he plans to skip the Iowa straw poll in August: He has the most executive experience and will do more to control taxes than anyone in the GOP lineup. He emphasized his love for the lessons of former President Ronald Reagan and trashed the Democrats as wild spenders.

The Iowa visit came a day after news broke that his South Carolina campaign chief had been indicted on federal drug charges. Giuliani said he knew little except that it was serious.

"We responded by removing him," he said. "I don't know anything about the case. ... He stepped down as having anything to do with the campaign."

Asked to respond to Giuliani's comments, City Hall spokesman Stu Loeser said the current and former mayors have a strong regard for each other.

"As Mayor Bloomberg has said again and again, everything we've been able to do in the Bloomberg administration stands on the shoulders of what Mayor Giuliani did when he was in office," Loeser said.

Democratic front-runner and fellow New Yorker Sen. Hillary Clinton kept it short on the subject of Bloomberg's declaration of independence: "I am not surprised by anyone leaving the Republican Party these days," she said. "I'll just leave it at that."

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