DENVER (AP) - Rudy Giuliani emerged as a favorite among many members of the GOP's largest gay organization, who cited his record on social issues, taxes and defense.
However, delegates to the Log Cabin Republicans annual convention said Friday they also fear that the former New York mayor, in his bid to capture the Republican presidential nomination, might be waffling as he reaches out to the more conservative GOP voters who hold sway in the primaries.
"Mainstream Republican voters and moderate voters are going to vote for you. Don't tilt to the right," said Frank Ricchiazzi, who helped found the Log Cabin group 30 years ago.
Ricchiazzi, who wore an "I Love Rudy" button, cited Giuliani's remarks on abortion during the GOP presidential candidates' debate Thursday night.
With a record of supporting abortion rights, Giuliani said "it would be OK" if the Supreme Court upholds the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion. "It would be OK to repeal it. It would be OK also if a strict constructionist viewed it as precedent," he said.
Following the GOP's losses in the November elections, in both Congress and the statehouses, many gay Republicans said they believe the party should strive to select a candidate who doesn't focus on divisive social issues.
Former Republican Sen. Alan Simpson of Wyoming, the event's keynote speaker, agreed. He told the group of about 200 that he thinks the party is in a better place than it was after delving into issues like the Terri Schiavo right-to-life case and gay marriage.
"We're shaking some of the goofies and zanies out of the trees," Simpson said to laughter.
"Who the hell's for abortion?" he added, explaining that it is a personal decision and should not be on the party platform.
Simpson repeatedly declined to comment on the individual GOP candidates. He urged the Log Cabin delegates to work for change within the party.
"Don't be impatient. Stay in the party. Don't leave because you can change it," Simpson said.
Asked about Tommy Thompson's remark Thursday that an employer should be allowed to fire a gay worker solely for being gay, Simpson said he didn't watch the debate. He called the response a "crazy statement to make in these times" and "insensitive."
Thompson apologized for the answer on Friday, saying he had made a mistake.
Log Cabin president Patrick Sammon said the group won't endorse a candidate before the primaries and doesn't expect anyone to run on a platform that includes gay rights. A unifying conservative agenda will support free trade, an aggressive war on terrorism, fiscal responsibility and limited government, he said.
That said, Sammon called Giuliani "a very strong leader with an inclusive record."
David Keeton, a small-business owner in Dallas, and his partner, Rob Schlein, said they supported Giuliani because of his record as New York mayor and his response to the Sept. 11 terror attacks.
"I'm an American first, then a Republican second, and gay falls in third or fourth," said Keeton, who wore a Ronald Reagan pin on his lapel.
Both said they recently met former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney at a fundraiser and had their picture taken with him. They were offended when Romney told the crowd that he opposed gay marriage and civil unions.
"We're part of the Republican Party, but he just alienated people who had paid $1,500 for a table," Keeton said.