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South Carolina a Good Indicator of Giuliani's Viability

Former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani (search) didn't want to talk politics during an appearance here Wednesday night. But his reticence did little to quiet the whispers that the visit was a way for him to test the political waters for a possible presidential run.

"It's way too early. It wouldn't even be speculation to think about 2008," said Giuliani, the keynote speaker at a fund-raiser for tsunami relief. "It's not something I would even think about until some time from now."

South Carolina is among states that hold early primaries. "It is very smart for any Republican official who is even remotely considering the presidency to spend time early in South Carolina," said South Carolina Republican Party (search) Executive Director Luke Byars.

George W. Bush (search) made a number of visits to the state in 1999, which helped him win the state's GOP primary, Byars noted.

Byars said other potential Republican presidential candidates plan trips to the state, including Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (search) and Sen. Bill Frist (search), R-Tenn.

Giuliani is expected to return to South Carolina in April to host a fund-raiser for the state's GOP attorney general.

"I'll come to South Carolina any time you invite me. It's a great state. I have some very good friends in South Carolina," Giuliani said. "And also, this is a great state to play golf in."

The Republican presidential field remains wide open. President Bush cannot run again and Vice President Cheney announced earlier this week he has no intention of seeking the office.

Giuliani spoke Wednesday at a fund-raiser for medical relief for victims of the December tsunami (search) in south Asia. South Carolina hospitals have been raising money since last month, an effort capped by Wednesday's benefit.