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Rudy Giuliani takes a ride

January 5, 2008 | 11:45 pm

Manchester, N.H. -- While visiting the Segway factory in Bedford, N.H., several days ago, Republican Rudy Giuliani passed on riding the famed scooter the company manufactures -- spooked, perhaps, by President Bush's rocky experience in 2003 when he lost his balance. But Saturday, Giuliani decided to throw caution to the wind (after he got a quick lesson from the Segway's inventor, Dean Kamen).

"Fascinating ... I think I'm going to keep it," Giuliani said as he stepped off the two-wheeled personal transporter in a gym at Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester. "It would make campaigning much easier. I could shake three times as many hands."

Giuliani, who needs a good showing in Tuesday's New Hampshire primary to regain momentum that has ebbed away from his presidential campaign, was giving a speech kicking off a national competition for Kamen's organization FIRST ("For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology"). The Times' Maeve Reston was there, and she reports that the candidate, straying from message, couldn't stop gushing over the Segway.

And while he may have been trying to spotlight his knowledge of other countries, he began to sound ...

like an infomercial.

"The thing I just rode in on can be sold all over the world; it's as needed in China and India as it is in the United States. Having been to India a couple of times last year, I can tell you it's needed more in India," he said.

He returned to how the scooter could serve his own needs. "I could have done twice as much campaigning if I had that thing," he said. "I'm going to now introduce it as a necessary part of campaigning. Wait until you see me going up and down the streets in wherever we go next -- South Carolina, Florida. I'll try it even on [New York's] Fifth Avenue; that would be cool, right?"

Much of his audience were high schoolers waiting to get started in Kamen's competition. And they seemed less than enthralled with Giuliani's musings.

So he moved on, promising all the teams an invitation to the White House (a pledge that hinges on a big "if," of course).

-- Don Frederick