From NBC/NJ's Matthew Berger and NBC's Andy Merten
OCEAN VIEW, N.J. -- A day after Christian conservative leaders suggested they might support a third-party candidate if Giuliani got the Republican Party's nomination Giuliani said he was not focusing the issue.
"I'm working on one party right now, the Republican Party," he said after visiting patrons at Dino's Seaville Diner. "This is a long primary, and once there are nominees on either side, we'll figure that out."
The campaign touted its conservative credentials in an e-mail to reporters today, citing his record in New York City on cutting taxes, lowering the abortion rate and eliminating pornography from Times Square. He even got a boost from the Club for Growth, which sent out a letter (in response to Steve Forbes' letter to them in support of Giuliani) reaffirming their support for Giuliani's fiscal discipline. The group had openly questioned Giuliani's commitment to not raise Social Security taxes last week.
Although Giuliani was asked the question about social conservatives twice, he used each opportunity to address two other pertinent Republican issues -- his fiscal conservatism and his electability against Hillary Clinton.
"I think each one of the Democrats is going to have to tell us exactly how much they are going to increase federal spending -- when you add up the taxes, the increases they've talked about, and the spending they've talked about, we're entitled to know how much," he said. He then went on to criticize an initiative touted by Clinton on Friday, while speaking to the Congressional Black Caucus, in which she called for $5,000 "baby-bonds" for every child born in America, accessible upon graduation from high school.
And after being asked if the potential of losing the Christian right vote harms his viability as a general election candidate, Giuliani returned to his competitiveness against Clinton.
"Every poll shows that I would be, by far, the strongest candidate against Hillary Clinton," he said, adding, "There hasn't been one taken in the last six or seven months that shows anything other than I'm the Republican that has the best chance to beat her."
He concluded by saying he hopes to put the formerly Democratic-leaning states of New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut into play next year. Giuliani also sidestepped whether he agreed with John McCain about the United States being a Christian nation.
"Our country was founded on principles that come from God," he said, before quoting the "freedom of religion" sections of the Bill of Rights. Giuliani seemed to enjoy his chit-chat with diners Monday. The conversation focused heavily on baseball, including the Philadelphia Phillies' upset of the New York Mets in the National League East pennant race, and football, including the Giants' win over the Eagles Sunday night.