SPARKS, Nev. Republican Mitt Romney criticized presidential rival Rudy Giuliani on Friday, arguing that his own real-world experience and socially conservative values represent the "Republican wing of the Republican Party."
The former Massachusetts governor, who espoused moderate views in his 1994 bid to unseat Democratic Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, said that when Republicans act like Democrats, the nation loses.
"I believe conservatives across the nation and particularly in states where I have been able to take my message, like Iowa and New Hampshire and South Carolina and Michigan and Florida and Nevada, that conservatives that have heard me time and again recognize that I do speak for the Republican wing of the Republican Party," Romney said.
In 2004, presidential candidate Howard Dean often told his party's faithful that he represented the "Democratic wing of the Democratic Party."
Romney assailed Giuliani for challenging President Bill Clinton's line-item veto authority, a spending-limitation power the Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional in 1998. He said when the ruling was issued there were two people dancing in the streets Giuliani and Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., who has steered numerous projects to his home state.
"Mayor Giuliani, in order to get more money for New York City, went to court to stop the line-item veto, and unfortunately he was successful," Romney said. "I will fight very hard to get the line-item veto back in the president's hand."
Giuliani spokesman Jarrod Agen responded that the former mayor "continues to be the leading choice among conservatives because he has proven executive experience and he's the real fiscal conservative in the race with a record of cutting taxes."
Agen said that Giuliani supports a constitutional amendment establishing a presidential line-item veto. He said the one signed by then-President Clinton and overturned by the high court was unconstitutional.
"And anyone who doesn't understand that does not have a clear understanding of the Constitution," Agen said.
At a townhall-type meeting at a hotel-casino sponsored by the Nevada Federation of Republican Women and later in a speech to the Conservative Leadership Conference, Romney criticized Republicans who go to Washington and don't stop excessive spending.
"When Republicans act like Democrats, America loses," he said. "It's time for Republicans to act like Republicans again."
Asked later whether he thought Giuliani was a Democrat in Republican clothes, Romney declined to answer.
"I'm going to let you refine at this point the positions of each of the people running for president," he told reporters, adding that a coalition of social, economic and foreign policy conservatives is necessary for the GOP to maintain control of the White House in 2008.
"Now and then people say we can't win the White House if we have family values or social conservatives in the lead or in the nominee," Romney said.
"In my view, we won't win the White House unless we have social conservative values as part of the nominee's platform," he said.
Giuliani supports abortion rights and gay rights, and during his eight years as New York mayor strongly favored gun control.
Romney, who was head of the 2002 Winter Olympics, said the GOP needs a candidate with business experience.
"I didn't spend my life in politics," he said. "It's high time to have someone with experience in the private sector because the president is not an internship."
Romney said the broad name recognition enjoyed by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., may ultimately prove to be her demise.
"She is well known and that's the good news," Romney said to applause. "I think about 45, 46 percent of America is really happy with Hillary Clinton and think she would be a great president. But I don't think she can get over 50 percent."
On other topics, Romney said he opposes medical marijuana laws because they are a "Trojan horse" for legalizing the drug, which he said is a "plague to our children and a plague to our country."
He repeated his opposition to same-sex marriages and said he wants "our kids to understand before they start having babies they should get married."
He was asked at the townhall meeting whether, if he were elected, he would sign a bill sent to him with a constitutional ban on abortions.
"I would love to see an America where there was no abortion. But that's not where the American people are," Romney said.
"What I do want to see, and where I think the American people are today, is to see a conservative jurist on the Supreme Court and to see Roe v. Wade overturned."