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CNN's Frank Buckley on the Hillary victory

CNN Correspondent Frank Buckley spoke to CNN.com Tuesday night from the Hillary Rodham Clinton campaign headquarters in New York City after watching the candidate and her supporters celebrate her victory.

Question: What stood out in this campaign for you?

Buckley: After watching her 16-month quest to become a U.S. senator from New York, it was remarkable to see her evolve from being a stilted, stiff, novice candidate to becoming a polished politician who frankly enjoyed campaigning at the end.

It was also interesting tonight to see her standing up on the stage as the political star instead of her husband. And to see Hillary Clinton receiving the accolades and attention, with the president standing behind her.

Question: After being so denounced by Republicans, will she find it difficult to build alliances in the Senate?

Buckley: The other part of that question is that as the junior senator from New York, if Republicans keep control of the Senate as they are expected to do, what could she be expected to accomplish in the GOP controlled Senate.

Her position is that she will be able to reach across party lines, as she said tonight.

Question: Outgoing Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan basically said, "Here she is," while introducing Clinton tonight during her victory speech. Should anything be read into that or is it typical for him to be so brief?

Buckley: Sen. Moynihan is not known for brevity, but on a couple of occasions in introducing her he has been brief. As for his support of Clinton, he did campaign for her, introduced her at the state nomination convention, and has said on several occasions that she would be a "splendid senator."

Question: Was it issues or her celebrity that drew supporters to her campaign?

Buckley: It's very early to do a postmortem on this race. But I was just talking to her campaign manager Bill De Blasio and he said there were three major factors:

  • She ran well in traditionally Republican territory in upstate New York.

  • Women came home. Polling showed that women were not initially supportive of Hillary, but in the end they came home to her.

  • She won big in New York City which is heavily Democratic.

    Question: Did she ride Gore's coattails, or did she carry him?

    Buckley: She definitely rode Gore's coattails. Early exit polls showed him ahead by a million votes, while she was leading with only about half that number of votes.

    Question: Why do you think Republican Rep. Rick Lazio lost this race?

    Buckley: I talked to Republicans who said Lazio didn't have a core message that resonated with voters and being the anti-Hillary candidate wasn't enough to win.

    The Clinton campaign effectively defined him as soon as he entered the race, instead of him defining himself. In a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans 5-3, whatever Lazio did to present himself as a moderate or as a "mainstream candidate," it just didn't gain any traction in the race.



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