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In The News: The Lazio Effect

by Jessica Green, Jun 01, 2000

Sex, mortality, remorse, the Other Woman, and then, the Other Man.

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Welcome to the world of NYC politics. Giuliani's recent sagas monopolized every column inch of the dailies, filled with lurid details (Judi Nathan walking her dog, gasp!), and the physiology of the prostate. And then, the Mayor made his May 19th announcement bowing out of the race, and poof! The End. Giuliani was labeled 'lame duck,' and few are pausing to consider his political future.

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Enter the Other Man: Rick Lazio.

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The Lazio effect is kicking in. Maybe it's those boyish good looks. Maybe it's the family values. Maybe it's the "I'm a New Yorker" pitch.

Whatever it may be, it's working. Rick Lazio has been transformed from the pesky surburbanite waiting in the wings (Pataki had quietly encouraged Lazio to run for Senate until he officially endorsed Giuliani this summer) to the Man of the Hour, hurtling through the state, campaigning with speed and finesse.

So what's next? Many speculate that Giuliani's exit will shift the race from a match-up of high-profile personalities to a substantive debate about issues. Well, maybe. But Lazio has wasted no time launching attacks, branding Mrs. Clinton as an opportunist and a carpetbagger. His staff maintains that these themes will be central to his campaign. Mrs. Clinton, however, has simply sidestepped the insults, sticking to the issues.

Maybe the new Senate race will evolve into a discussion of the issues. Certainly, such an occurrence is more likely given the differences between the two candidates. Whereas Giuliani and Mrs. Clinton have similar stances on social issues such as abortion, gay rights, and gun control, Mr. Lazio and Mrs. Clinton differ markedly. Lazio supports a woman's right to choose, but opposes late term abortions, a stance that has won Hillary Clinton an endorsement from the National Abortion Rights Action League. Clinton favors registering and licensing all guns, while Lazio prefers "reasonable measures to support the rights of sportsmen." Lazio has made environmental protection a theme of his nascent candidacy; Mrs. Clinton is largely silent on such issues. Stay tuned...

Jessica Sounds Off:

Wouldn't an issues-based campaign be nice? An intelligent discussion about what is best for New York State? A higher level of discourse, that doesn't pander to the public? Yeah, right.

Lazio has already demonstrated that he'll be using crude tactics -- "Hillary's not a real New Yorker, and I am" -- to compensate for his low profile upstate. This coming from a man who doesn't know what the fare is on the NYC subway?

Susan Reefer is a Republican pollster and media strategist. She is based in New York City.


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