The campaign of presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani could be damaged by his past as a drag queen, political experts say.

Giuliani , the former Mayor of New York, has only appeared in drag in public a handful of times.

At an annual political roast in 1997, Giuliani came on stage wearing a platinum blonde wig, makeup and a pink gown.

A comedy roast is an American tradition where a respected person is subjected to light-hearted insults and abuse from friends and admirers.

Shortly after winning re-election in the same year, Giuliani hosted comedy show Saturday Night Live.

He dressed up as an elderly Italian woman for one sketch, demonstrating his sense of humour and love of getting involved.

On yet another occasion, Giuliani wore fishnets and did the can-can with Radio City Music Hall’s Rockettes.

Now that Giuliani is running for the Republican presidential nomination, political observers believe these light-hearted jokes could damage his reputation.

The many photographs from the various incidents show a man who may not appeal to the famous conservative Bible Belt, an area which wields much political power.

Many put the success of George W. Bush down to his appeal in the Christian South, where not only votes, but also financial backing and party donations sway the political climate.

After 9/11 Giuliani earned a reputation as a hard-hitting leader who acted decisively a time of national emergency, and as the man who transformed New York by bringing down crime.

But the drag performances are already showing up on YouTube, including one mock presidential campaign video.

Professor Neal Thigpen is a political scientist at Francis Marion University, South Carolina.

He told Associated Press: “People think of him as a leader and a tough guy, and he has this image as somebody who tamed the city of New York and made the trains run on time, and seeing him dressed up like a girl would run contrary to all of those things.”

Thigpen claims that the footage will cost Giuliani votes in “less sophisticated” parts of the country.

But other disagree, saying that the American public have seen it all before, and won’t be bothered.

Heidi Smith is the chairwoman of the Republican Party in Washoe County, Nevada.

She remembers how Giuliani impressed Reno citizens in a campaign appearance there last month. He went on a trip to Costco during which he chatted with shoppers, posing for photographs and signing autographs.

Smith told Associated Press: “That meant more than seeing him in drag. If he wants to wear a dress, who cares?”

Although the majority of cross-dressers are not gay, some conservative Republicans worry that Giuliani’s antics will remind voters of his support for gay rights.

Giuliani supported laws that protected gays against harassment during his time as Mayor. He marched in gay pride parades, welcomed the Olympic-style Gay Games to New York City and, after his second marriage broke up, lived with two friends who happened to be a gay couple.

He does not support gay marriage, but he does not support a constitutional amendment which would ban it either.

Last year, PinkNews.co.uk predicted that Giuliani would backtrack on his gay rights record in an attempt to secure his nomination for the Presidential elections.

Giuliani appeared at a rally for anti-gay senator Rick Santorum, who believes homosexuality should be controlled “the same as they regulate human sexual contact with animals.”

He described Mr Santorum, who is running for the Senate in Pennsylvania, as a man who “really has a comprehensive understanding of the dangers that are facing us.

“He understands the importance of police, the importance of law and order.”