Rudy Giuliani returned to the Granite State Friday night, acknowledging his poor performance here in the 2008 GOP primary in a speech that lambasted President Obama, jabbed Mitt Romney’s health plan and praised the tea party.
The former New York City mayor gave little hint of his own plans, but seemed relaxed during a showy speech at the Manchester GOP Lincoln Reagan Dinner that was laced with jokes and hand gestures as he skewered Obama as a “failure” and ended with the declaration, “Hillary Clinton would have been better.”
It was his first trip to New Hampshire of the 2012 cycle, and the first since he made clear he’s contemplating another run for president — one that could offer redemption for his dismal fourth-place finish in the first-in-the-nation primary last time.
Giuliani lauded the tea party movement extensively, saying it is about preserving the “freedoms” of the country.
“My view of the tea party is the tea party is one of the best things that’s happened to American democracy in a very, very long time,” he said. “People in the tea party, like me, believe that our freedom is being taken away.”
He mocked Obama’s background as a community organizer, saying it is the wrong kind of experience for a president, adding, “It’s worse than we thought, isn’t it? He really seems like he doesn’t know what he’s doing. “
He accused the president of “dithering” over Libya, and called him “incapable of making a decision.”
“This president has been a failure in just about every single thing that he’s done,” he said.
“The president of the United States gave [the anti-Qadhafi forces] encouragement. ... [And people] got killed and slaughtered by Qadhafi while Obama dithered,” he thundered. “That’s a president? That’s what we want in this country? Can we stand two more years of this? Well, we’re going to have to.”
He joked that Obama might have thought Qadhafi was actually Italian, saying, “It ends in a vowel.”
He called for the next president to submit “a bill to repeal ObamaCare once and for all!” And he told reporters after his speech that “the biggest issue deep down is ObamaCare…it’s a freedom thing.”
In his speech, Giuliani noted that in 2008 he predicted that RomneyCare, which he only referred to as the “Massachusetts health plan,” would cost “three times” the predicted estimates. He said he knew this because “I ran a hospital system” as mayor.
He said Romney has to acknowledge that the Massachusetts plan, portions of which served as models for the national health law championed by Obama, was a mistake and “even go further” and suggest he would try to obliterate ObamaCare.
“I think it would be a bigger problem than people anticipate,” he said of Romney’s record on health care, adding, “I’ve had people tell me about it for the last two months. People call me and tell me, people who might be interested in supporting (Romney).”
While he was still able to draw an audience in New Hampshire, Giuliani didn’t command the same media or crowd presence that he did back in 2008.
The crowd Friday evening was about 100 people and the room was not sold out, although GOP officials insisted it was a good turnout for an event that’s competing with a few other Lincoln Day dinners the same month.
One table was almost completely empty, and only about half the ballroom at the Executive Court was used.
Still, the audience clearly enjoyed the speech, with just occasional moments of shifting in their chairs, such as when Giuliani talked about hydraulic fracturing – explaining that it’s a technique for drilling for natural gas.
But the person who seemed to be most enjoying himself was Giuliani, who often seemed stiff in speeches during his 2008 run.
He got some of his strongest laughs and nods of approval when he addressed his poor showing almost four years earlier, saying, “There are about 45 things I would have done differently.”
Giuliani — zinged by Joe Biden in the 2008 campaign as the man whose every sentence was “a noun, a verb, and 9/11” — only mentioned the terror attacks in passing as he began his speech.
He thanked a man wearing a “never forget” pin — the pins had been handed out at the door to the event — and he acknowledged firefighter Tim Brown, who’s one of the plaintiffs in a lawsuit seeking to halt the planned mosque near Ground Zero.
“Ohh!” one woman exclaimed when Giuliani said that, and applause broke out.
But instead of talking at length about the Sept. 11 attacks, Giuliani focused heavily on his record as mayor, saying it was essential chief executive training, and on foreign policy.
He offered praise for executives like Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R), and said he’d called him earlier in the day after a judge issued a temporary halt to implementing the new Walker-backed law to curb union bargaining rights.
“I love that we have governors like that now,” he said, mentioning New Jersey’s Chris Christie as well, adding, “Guys that had big…oh this isn’t Brooklyn, I forgot. “
As for a 2012 run, Giuliani only said that he hadn’t made up his mind. But that didn’t stop him from playing to his audience. “I really do regret when I ran four years ago, that I didn’t spend more time here,” he said.