The McCain mail piece says the Arizona senator is more conservative than Rudy Giuliani.
COLUMBIA, South Carolina (CNN) – Let the Republican mail wars in South Carolina begin.
Sen. John McCain's campaign has sent out the first piece of direct mail in this state that takes direct aim at a presidential rival: in this case, former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani.
But McCain's attack is bipartisan - the mailing takes on both Giuliani and Sen. Hillary Clinton, arguing that McCain is more conservative than Giuliani, but also that McCain can win more swing states in a general election against Clinton.
The mailing, obtained by CNN, is headlined: "McCain: the only Conservative who can beat Senator Clinton." It shows McCain as a young Navy pilot and says that the Arizona senator "is a stronger candidate than Rudy Giuliani in the general election." The mail piece also challenges Giuliani on social issues, declaring that McCain has "a consistent 24-year pro-life voting record."
Sent out Monday as part of an invitation to an upcoming Town Hall in Myrtle Beach, the mailing cites recent polling that shows McCain beating Clinton in a general election match-up.
"McCain gives Republicans best chance over Hillary in key swing states," the mailer claims, echoing a claim McCain has made on the campaign trail in recent weeks. "John McCain performs better than Rudy Giuliani against Hillary Clinton in every swing state recently surveyed by Rasmussen or SurveyUSA with the exception of Iowa where they are equal."
The mailing also works in a Ronald Reagan reference, saying, "McCain is the only Republican candidate who can keep the Reagan coalition strong" on keeping federal spending low.
Giuliani remains near the top of most polls in conservative South Carolina despite his liberal stands on certain social issues. McCain generally polls in third place behind Giuliani and former Sen. Fred Thompson, but he is campaigning hard to win the primary that eluded him in 2000, in part because of the notoriously negative campaign waged against him here.
The McCain campaign said the mailing was "substantial," and that similar event invitations were sent Tuesday to the towns of Irmo and Simpsonville.
Alerted to the mail piece, the Giuliani campaign hit back.
"The McCain campaign is welcome to theorize and strategize to their heart's content," said Giuliani communications director Katie Levinson. "The fact of the matter is poll after poll confirms Rudy Giuliani continues to be the Republican candidate best positioned to beat Hillary Clinton in 2008.
"And not for nothing, Rudy has the resources necessary to compete and win in the primary and general and continues to lead the national polls. A leaked internal 'memo' or mailer and all the creative spin in the world does not change the facts."
– CNN South Carolina Producer Peter Hamby