Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani smiled as he criticized what he depicted as a gaffe made by former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the man who has emerged as his primary opponent for the GOP presidential nomination.
"I think the governor knows he made a mistake," Giuliani said in an interview with ABC News, referring to an eyebrow-raising response Romney gave at a Republican debate in Dearborn, Mich., that he would seek the advice of lawyers before attacking Iran's nuclear facilities.
"You sit down with your attorneys and they tell you what you have to do, but obviously, the president of the United States has to do what's in the best interest of the United States to protect us," Romney said when asked whether as president he would seek the authorization of Congress before such an attack.
Giuliani's campaign quickly made an issue of the remarks, and in his first public comments about the Romney response, Giuliani told ABC News, "That's one of those moments in a debate where you say something and you go like this," he said, quickly putting his hand over his mouth — "[oops,] wish I can get that one back."
"Basically right out of the box, first thing, you're faced with imminent attack on the United States, I don't think you call in the lawyers first. I think maybe the generals, the ones you call in first, they're the ones you want to talk to," Giuliani added.
But as he made his way across South Carolina Thursday, Giuliani's eyes only truly sparkled when making fun at the spending proposals offered by New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential front-runner.
"She's going to send out Hillary Baby Bonds," he told a thoroughly amused Republican Party crowd in Rock Hill, S.C., brandishing a list of Clinton spending proposals from the last few days. "Everybody born in America is going to get a $5,000 bond. That's not bad? You like that, right? It's not going to be retroactive, though. Maybe John Edwards will bring a lawsuit and they'll try to make it retroactive."
The crowd ate it up — these observations being more schtick than attack, a riff from an amused Republican who cannot believe the ideas floated by the woman he hopes to defeat in November 2008. The deftly delivered, almost joyful assessment reminds audiences of his pitch that he would mount the best challenge, according to many polls, to another Clinton presidency.
Giuliani told the crowd that Clinton after a few days dropped the idea of the Hillary Baby Bond.
"That was good news! I was pretty happy about that because we saved 20 billion," he said, smiling. But then Clinton introduced a new plan.
"The new one is the Hillary 401(k) checks," Giuliani said. "Everyone who opens up a 401(k) at certain income levels will get a $1,000 check from Hillary — no, I'm sorry, from the U.S. Treasury. This one's going to cost 25 billion! So now I'm not so sure that I should have criticized her for the Hillary Baby Bonds because I lost $5 billion!"
"And boy she's just begun," he said as the crowd's giggles subsided. "Hillary has just begun to spend your money."
His "electability" argument is one he hopes will convince conservatives in states like this one that they should overlook the differences they have with him on social issues such as immigration, abortion and gay rights.