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Giuliani unleashes on Kerry in Minnesota stop
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Rudy Giuliani praised President Bush as a leader who "makes up his mind out of principle. And he can stick with it even when it's unpopular." (MPR Photo/Art Hughes)

Minnetonka, Minn — (AP) On the heels of Sen. John Kerry's strong debate performance, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani came to battleground Minnesota on Friday hoping to reinforce doubts about the Democratic presidential candidate's fitness to be commander in chief.

Giuliani, speaking to about 400 people in this affluent Twin Cities suburb, hit Kerry hard on defense spending votes and his nuanced position toward Iraq. He event went so far as to mock the Massachusetts senator's knowledge of baseball.

Meanwhile, the White House announced Friday that President Bush would make a return trip to Minnesota on Oct. 9, the day after the second Kerry-Bush debate. Plans call for him to appear at a rally in Scott County.

Overnight polls showed Kerry got much higher marks in the first debate from undecided voters than Bush did. But Republicans still feel Kerry is vulnerable on foreign policy.

"He doesn't have the consistency of purpose to be our commander in chief," Giuliani said. "We need to understand how to support our military. We need to understand how to support our intelligence services. He's been an opponent of our military for 20 years. He's been an opponent of our intelligence services for 20 years."

Giuliani praised Bush as a leader who "makes up his mind out of principle. And he can stick with it even when it's unpopular."

By contrast, the former mayor cast Kerry as a waffler. "The surest thing you can predict about John Kerry is that whenever things get tough he changes his mind, he changes his position."

U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum, a Minnesota Democrat, dismissed the attack on Kerry as a sign Republicans are worried about him making gains after the debate.

"He's more than able to be the next president," she said. "There was total clarity in what John Kerry said. He will protect America first and he has a plan for Iraq and he wants to refocus the war on al-Qaida."

Giuliani conceded that Kerry made powerful points Thursday and showed himself as a good debater - but he wouldn't declare Kerry the winner.

Bush, he said, shouldn't change his approach for the second debate, scheduled for next Friday.

"If it's not as smooth as John Kerry - thank God," Giuliani said.

U.S. Rep. Mark Kennedy, a Minnesota Republican, also left the impression that Kerry performed well, but in a backhanded way.

"Senator Kerry has a lot of experience debating. After all, Senator Kerry been debating candidate Kerry for the last two years," Kennedy said.

But style did leave a mark, according to some debate watchers.

Michael O'Fallon, a 41-year-old Republican from Prior Lake, Minn., tuned in hoping Bush would perform well. He voted for Bush in 2000 and still is inclined to support the president. But he was disappointed.

"I think Kerry was more prepared than Bush was, unfortunately," he said Friday. "The president looked kind of preoccupied. He was stumbling for words. I think Kerry really gave it to him."

In his sharp critique of Kerry, Giuliani, a die-hard New York Yankees fan, couldn't resist poking fun at Kerry for a slip-up when he was asked to name his favorite Boston Red Sox player.

Kerry, in a sports radio interview this summer, answered "Manny Ortiz," mistakenly combining outfielder Manny Ramirez with designated hitter David Ortiz.

"Baseball isn't that all that important. What they talked about last night was a lot more important and domestic policy is important," Giuliani said. "But there are times when there are certain things that give you into an insight as to who's real and who isn't real."

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