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New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani Opts Out of U.S. Senate Race; Rep. Lazio Expected to Step In

Aired May 19, 2000 - 1:40 p.m. ET


NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Our developing story this afternoon: New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani backing down from running for U.S. Senate against Hillary Rodham Clinton. He had several days to make up his mind before the nominating committee went ahead in the state of New York for the Republican Party on who would be their candidate, Mayor Giuliani deciding not to continue in the race after announcing he has prostate cancer and announcing his marital problems and official separation from his wife. And the word from CNN's John King out of Washington just moments ago, that Congressman Rick Lazio of Long Island the probable man now to take on Hillary Rodham Clinton.

We had been given information that the mayor would make this official at 2:00 Eastern, just about 20 minutes from now. We're told that that's not going to happen. No new word yet on when he will make this official, but you can bet we'll bring that to you as soon as we get more information on the mayor's schedule.

Lou Waters and I have been talking with Bill Schneider, our senior political analyst.

Bill, John King and Frank Sesno saying in Washington that Hillary Clinton would have to try and make this a national election, a Democrat versus Republican. Is Rick Lazio the kind of guy she can go after in that way?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, they're going to try to portray him as a soldier in Newt Gingrich's army, someone who has supported the Republican leadership on a lot of issues. And the fact is, there are a lot of votes there that they can pull out on which he's voted on -- for positions that a lot of -- that most New Yorkers probably would disagree with.

But his record, frankly, is moderately conservative. He's supported increased funding for the arts, a very important issue in New York State and New York City. He has a strong record on gun control -- I think 100 record of support for gun control.

On the abortion issue, which is a key factor in this race, he calls himself pro-life. Others have -- I've heard call him pro- choice. The fact is, his ratings from pro-life -- that is, antiabortion organizations -- has been about 50-50. So he's been -- while I -- you have to defer to what he calls himself -- he is antiabortion and pro-life -- I believe he has a fairly moderate record on the abortion issue, and he's been endorsed by important environmental organizations in his reelection campaigns.

So, altogether, he's a moderate congressman with -- who does support the leadership on some issues, but not all of them.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: So what do you suppose the political calculation is in the Hillary Rodham Clinton camp today? What's the next step for them?

SCHNEIDER: Oh, I think they're pretty happy to see this happen. It's -- they think it's going to be an easier race because it'll look like a woman of great standing and importance versus, well, a kid. And the Lazio people are simply counting on what Frank Buckley called the ABC factor: "anybody but Clinton." The question is, is there enough, well, resentment of Hillary Clinton, not just what she stands for and who she is, but also carpetbagging factor, that she's come to a state where she's never lived or worked before? And is there enough resentment of that to get people to vote for someone they don't know anything about? Maybe. We don't know.

But I'll tell you something: The last time this happened, the only other time that I know of when this happened was with Robert Kennedy in 1964. He got elected and he did not live or work in New York State -- not since he was a child. How did he win that race? He nationalized it. He would go up before audiences and say, if you object to the fact that I don't live in New York and I haven't for a long time and say I'm not a real New Yorker and you don't want to vote for me for that reason, well, I can't argue with that. But I can tell you one think, Kennedy said: I'm the only candidate for Senate in New York who supports Lyndon Johnson and opposes Barry Goldwater. And audiences would go crazy because his opponent, Kenneth Keating, was a Goldwater supporter as a loyal Republican.

Hillary thinks she can win on the same -- in the same way by nationalizing it, by making it a race against the Republican Party that has persecuted her and her husband and whose positions on a lot of issues are not popular in New York.

WATERS: Well, the '60s are a lot different than the year 2000 when it comes to that sort of thing.

SCHNEIDER: Well, that's right. I think New York has become much more of a centrist state. But remember, Lazio is a fairly centrist, conservative Republican.

WATERS: I understand now that Rick Lazio will have a town hall meeting at 6:00 p.m. on Long Island, something that was previously scheduled. I guess that's when we anticipate some kind of statement from him. We heard from John King that he was to make a statement following the mayor's statement. We now don't know exactly when the mayor's statement will come.

ALLEN: Well, the one thing we know is that there are cameras headed for that town hall meeting right now when there might not have been as much coverage before.

If you're advising Rick Lazio, what does he need to say in the get go here? He's going to have a lot of attention early on, and who is this guy?

SCHNEIDER: He has to show that he's a reasonable guy. They're going to try to portray him as some sort of a right-wing extremist, and he's got to do the same thing that George Bush is doing. In fact, while Bush is behind a little bit in New York, Bush is not seen in New York, as well as in the rest of the country, as some sort of a rabid right-winger the way Barry Goldwater was in 1964. Bush isn't Goldwater, Lazio isn't Goldwater, and he's got to make it clear that he's in the mainstream of New York opinion.

ALLEN: And quickly, who does he need standing by his side early on to beef up that stature gap?

SCHNEIDER: Governor Pataki would be very important. Rudy Giuliani also because he's still a very popular figure in New York, particularly in the New York suburbs where a crucial vote is cast. He needs Pataki and Giuliani, the two kings of the Republican Party in New York, standing right beside him, indicating that they have stature and they give it to him as much as they possibly can.

WATERS: Maybe those arrangements are being made right now because something's being delayed and we don't exactly know why.

ALLEN: Right. We'll continue to keep you posted on developments as this story has just -- we've only known about it a little over an hour now.


ALLEN: Bill Schneider, we'll be seeing you again. We'll take a break. We'll have more for you after this.



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