How he's received there will help clarify Giuliani's chances of winning the GOP nomination. Because of his past strong support for gun control laws – and some spats with the NRA itself – he'll never be a darling of the organization. His challenge is to convince them he's not public enemy number one, and it's an issue his primary opponents are eager to discuss.
John McCain will be among several Republican candidates addressing the conference today and will jab Giuliani on the issue, according to the AP. McCain will reference the lawsuit Giuliani and other mayors filed against gun manufacturers in 2000 and remarks he made in a televised interview where he referred to the NRA as "extremists."
"My friends, gun owners are not extremists; you are the core of modern America," McCain will say, according to prepared remarks. "The Second Amendment is unique in the world and at the core of our constitutional freedoms. It guarantees an individual right to keep and bear arms. To argue anything else is to reject the clear meaning of our founding fathers."
How big a challenge is the issue for Giuliani? CBS News' manager of surveys Anthony Salvanto takes a look:
In addressing Giuliani's stand on guns and how he handled the issue in New York City, Giuliani stresses local decision-making, as a statement on his Web site makes clear: "Rudy understands that what works in New York doesn't necessarily work in Mississippi or Montana."
Speaking to voters in rural states may be a general challenge ahead for Giuliani. In a recent CBS News/New York Times Poll, Republican Primary voters think Rudy only understands the issues of people in big cities – 43 percent do – compared to just 15 percent who think he also understands small towns and rural areas.
However the guns issue, specifically, does not yet appear to be a sticking point with current Giuliani backers. When his current supporters were asked if there was an issue on which they disagree with Giuliani, "abortion" was volunteered by some (8 percent), but "guns" was not.
In a CBS News/New York Times Poll conducted this past spring most Americans were opposed to the general idea of a handgun ban, and Republican primary voters in particular were overwhelmingly opposed to such an idea (8 in 10 were).
Republicans, generally, are the most likely partisan group to say gun control laws should be left as they are. Democrats and Independents, by contrast, are more likely to say laws should be more strict.
The Undercard Heats Up: Joe Biden has a problem and it's name is Bill Richardson. The Delaware senator has met with some success in Iowa, gaining endorsements like that of state House leader Kevin McCarthy. But in order to enter the discussion for real in January, he's got to pass Richardson first. The New Mexico Governor has run a strong campaign – he's been able to raise enough money to run advertising that has been well received and his poll standings have crept up enough to separate him from the field.
The Biden-Richardson tension was evident at last night's AARP Democratic candidate forum in Iowa. When Richardson argued that his executive experience made him best prepared to be president, Biden reorted, "That's like saying, 'I played halfback when I was in high school; I can play in the pros.'"
CBS News' Joy Lin reports that Biden's campaign also released a press statement yesterday accusing Richardson of changing his stance on Iraq. They are apparently irked by an email the Richardson campaign sent to supporters, in which Richardson was touted as the "only candidate with a concrete solution to the war." Biden's press release responded to Richardson's "changing positions" by stating that, as late as April 2007, the governor of New Mexico had said he would leave some residual troops behind in Iraq and only recently altered his stance to withdrawing all troops.
"Governor Richardson is right that he represents both experience and change -- he has a lot of experience changing his mind on matters both large and small," Biden's campaign manager Luis Navarro said in a press release.
When asked for a response, Richardson's campaign press secretary Tom Reynolds did not deny that Richardson had changed his Iraq strategy but said in a statement that a "'stay-the-course' mentality, regardless of outcome, is what got us into the mess in the first place. When facts change a President must be willing to adjust."
"A qualified and responsible commander-in-chief must always be willing to evolve strategies, tactics and battle plans based on changing conditions," said Reynolds. "When it became clear that the Iraqis themselves want us to leave and that the civil war continues to escalate, Governor Richardson decided it was time all of the troops be pulled out, as there is no military solution to the conflict, only a political one."
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