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Rudy and the Republican women

September 29, 2007 | 11:23 am

Republican presidential contender Rudy Giuliani tried this morning to neutralize one potential problem spot for himself if he wins the Republican nomination and faces off against Democratic New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton in November '08 -- gender.

Giuliani was in Palm Springs for a fundraiser and to speak to the biannual conference of the National Federation of Republican Women,Nfrw where he argued before the 1,600 2,000* convention goers that the party needed to compete in all 50 states, not just the tried-and-true "red" states that sent George W. Bush to the White House twice.

"I think we can compete for every single man's vote, every single woman's vote. I don't care who the candidate is on the other side," Giuliani said. "The American people decide who they want as president based on who they think the right person is for the country, not whether somebody is a man or a woman or of a different race or gender or ethnic background or whatever."

He didn't mention by name the obvious allusions -- Clinton, who could become the first woman president; Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, who could become the first president with clear African roots; or New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who could become the first Latino president. Nor did Giuliani cite polls showing that Republicans see him as the most electable GOP candidate.

But for the most part, Giuliani stuck to what has become his basic theme of late: bashing Clinton as though the two front-runners were already squaring off, invoking Ronald Reagan's name at every turn and arguing that the only way to end the war in Iraq is with "victory for the United States of America" -- the last leading to a prolonged standing ovation from the predominantly conservative crowd.Fredthompson_ap

But the best thing Giuliani may have delivered for himself is goodwill. He was the only Republican candidate to address the group, which delegate Cathy Philips of Lakeland, Fla., described as comprising the party's "worker bees." (A full story on Giuliani and this key Republican constituency is available here on this website and in Sunday's print editions.)

Remember, Giuliani is on his third wife and his kids barely talk to him -- not the kind of family background that usually resonates with activist Republican women. But he seems to have overcome some of that, judging by a fresh Gallup poll, which shows him drawing slightly better among Republican women than among Republican men.

Who has the gender gap now? Fred Thompson -- whose much-younger wife, Jeri, has drawn some criticism for the kinds of outfits not seen on the floor of the Palm Springs Convention center today. "Mature women like me look at that and think, 'That could be my husband, run off with some pretty young thing,' " said Mona Blocker Garcia, a delegate from Marfa, Texas. Her candidate? Giuliani.

-- Scott Martelle

* Convention organizers updated their attendance estimate after this item was initially posted.