LONDON — Rudy Giuliani, the Republican front-runner for president, made the rounds here Wednesday as though he were already the head of state.
He took meetings with Prime Minister Gordon Brown, former Prime Minister Tony Blair and the foreign minister. He spoke of America's need to increase its military might and of its special relationship with Great Britain. He advocated expanding NATO to include Israel and India.
But this was a campaign swing, however far from the cornfields of Iowa. Giuliani had money to raise, voters to impress and messages to hammer.
So he spent much of his afternoon in a hotel ballroom in Knightsbridge, a ritzy shopping district of London, with a few dozen well-heeled American expatriates who paid $1,000 or more apiece to lunch with New York's former mayor.
During this appearance on the international stage, he was intent on associating himself with two of the most powerful Britons ever to play on it: Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher.
He was not subtle.
The entertainment for the luncheon was billed as a conversation between Giuliani and Celia Sandys, Churchill's granddaughter. As chats go, it was stilted, but there was some give and take: Giuliani offered voluminous praise for Churchill's resolute, defiant leadership during World War II, and graciously accepted as Sandys repeatedly likened him to the great man.
Sandys described Giuliani as "the man Americans call 'Churchill in a baseball cap.' "
Giuliani, as expected, spoke at length about 9-11 and his guidance of New York through its darkest hour. That day, he said, as he has before, he looked to Churchill for inspiration. He prepared for Sept. 12, 2001, by forgoing sleep to read Churchill's biography, he said.
The American voters in attendance, the only people eligible to contribute to the campaign, were hard to distinguish from Britons at the luncheon. Many said they'd lived in London a decade or more. Most looked as if they could afford to live well in this city, the second most expensive in the world. Understated, well-cut suits were the norm, as were handbags and satchels by Chanel and Hermes.
Adam Mozel, a Londoner who'd helped issue the invitations, said it was no surprise that most Americans on the guest list were investment bankers and lawyers in the city's booming financial sector.
"I don't think anyone comes here from America to work at a McDonald's," said Mozel, a partner in the London office of Giuliani's firm, Bracewell & Giuliani.
A few women of indeterminate age had suspiciously immobile faces, all taut tinted skin and wide eyes. Some held cell phones aloft to take pictures of Giuliani. None could be heard describing him as Churchill in a baseball cap.
Patricia Dunn, a New Yorker who's lived in London for eight years, stood in line with other supporters in a reception room to have her picture taken with Giuliani before the luncheon.
"He's so down to earth, just like he always was," said Dunn, a mother of two and the wife of the chief financial officer of a technology company, after her 30-second audience with the candidate. She said she'd been a fan of Giuliani since "he cleaned up Times Square and sorted the cabdrivers out."
That evening, after granting interviews to the world news corps, Giuliani returned to the gilt-trimmed ballroom to deliver a speech described as the inaugural Margaret Thatcher Lecture, a creation of the policy research center Atlantic Bridge.
Thatcher, now a frail 81, came dressed in a dark blue velvet gown.
She needed help up the stairs and her signature helmet of lacquered hair appeared to lack some of its 1980s swoop and loft, but she stood and applauded for Giuliani. A sensibly boxy handbag dangled from her wrist.
In the speech, Giuliani credited Thatcher, Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II with defeating communism. He said he'd tried to emulate Thatcher's example when he ran New York, by cutting government and reducing taxes.
He said beforehand that he'd embarked on the London trip out of respect for Thatcher. He didn't need to bolster his international image, he said.
"I'm probably one of the four or five best-known Americans. In the world!" he said. He soon amended that to put himself as high as No. 3.
The hotel staff at the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park needed no convincing. A pair of young servers hovered near the ballroom entrance for a glimpse of Giuliani.
"Giuliani's here. I want to see what he looks like," one young woman said. "I've heard about him from rap songs."
(Ruskin is a McClatchy Newspapers special correspondent.)