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Giuliani Gears Up For Mayoral Race

Rudy Giuliani

By Jonathan Karl/CNN

NEW YORK (Dec. 12) -- Can a Republican win City Hall in New York -- again? For Rudy Giuliani, the New Year brings a new challenge: becoming the first Republican mayor to win re-election in New York City since Fiorello LaGuardia did it in 1941.

In Brooklyn town hall meetings and City Hall photo-ops, Giuliani is clearly in campaign mode.

And there's another sign the Giuliani campaign is underway. After infuriating fellow Republicans in 1994 by endorsing Democrat Mario Cuomo for governor, now he has made up with his bitter enemy and the state's top Republican, Sen. Alfonse D'Amato. Their detente makes it unlikely Giuliani will face a Republican primary challenger.

Giuliani campaigning

In New York City, Democrats out-number Republicans 5-1. But for next year's mayor's race, the early odds favor Giuliani. He has already raised more than $6 million for his re-election bid, his approval rating is up, and the polls show him with a comfortable lead over all his likely challengers.

That doesn't faze Bronx borough president Fernando Ferrer, one of four Democrats preparing a run for mayor. Asked if Giuliani is beatable, Ferrer didn't flinch, saying, "You bet he is."

Ferrer hits Giuliani hardest on education. That theme is echoed by the other leading candidate for the Democratic nomination, Manhattan borough president Ruth Messinger.

Giuliani and Bratton

"This mayor has tried to balance this city's budget on the backs of the kids in the schools with terrible consequences," Messinger said. "Parents are angry."

Giuliani has taken heat for education and other budget cuts, but the mayor has a major accomplishment to run on: fighting crime. Crime has fallen so much since Guiliani became mayor that New York's murder rate is no longer among the top 100 in the U.S.

But in the battle against crime, the former prosecutor made an enemy out of his own police commissioner, Bill Bratton. After a lengthy feud with Giuliani, the popular Bratton stepped down earlier this year and considered his own run for mayor. Bratton Decided not to run, but he has vowed to campaign against Giuliani.

Ed Koch

And former mayor Ed Koch, who supported Giuliani in the last election, has now become one of the mayor's most vocal critics. Koch knows how much New Yorkers demand of their mayor. "If things are not going well, it's because you're not working hard enough and they're going to kick you until you do work harder. And I loved it," Koch said.

At one Brooklyn town hall meeting, New Yorkers demanded action from Giuliani on everything from traffic and garbage collection to education and domestic violence.

But at the end of the night, most them gave the mayor a thumbs up. One resident said, "He's fantastic with the crime. There seems to be less murders on my block."

Another said, "I'm a Democrat, but I vote for the man. Remember that."

And a third New Yorker gave Giuliani the highest praise. "He's a wonderful mayor. He's one of the greatest mayors we've ever had."

Of course, good reviews now don't mean they'll vote for their incumbent mayor next fall after a bruising, bare-knuckles New-York-style campaign.

This story originally appeared on CNN's "Inside Politics."

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