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CNN Confirms Giuliani Will Not Run for Senate; Rep. Lazio to Declare Candidacy

Aired May 19, 2000 - 1:27 p.m. ET


LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Our top story, the impending withdrawal of New York Mayor Rudy Guiliani from the U.S. Senate race. He hadn't even announced candidacy for the race, but as you know in the past three weeks, he's had to make several very difficult announcements, including the fact that he had prostate cancer and the separation from his wife.

We have on the line with us now, New York Republican Congressman Peter King, he's a congressman from New York, a Republican.

Peter King, your reaction to the announcement. Is there a possibility we'll see a Peter King hat in the ring here?

REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: Well, I've said a number of times that if the mayor dropped out I would certainly pursuit nomination. The reality is that Governor Pataki will control the state convention. He will have the most to say in who the nominee is. And right now, I would say, he is leaning toward Congressman Rick Lazio. And if Rick turns out to be the candidate, he'll be an excellent candidate. If not, I'm certainly available to run, I would like to run , I think I would be a strong nominee.

But the important thing is that we get together as a party behind one candidate.

WATERS: Is this the first that you have made your intentions known that you would like to be the U.S. Senate candidate from New York?

KING: No, actually, I've made it clear, I would say, a number of times over the last, oh, a week to 10 day, I have spoken to party leaders, I have spoken to people around the state. They know I'm interested in it. They know I would work hard for it. But again, with so little time left, the reality is that Governor Pataki is the one who controls the votes, he controls the decision-making process, and right now, from what I understand, he's probably leaning toward Congressman Lazio. I'm stilling going to push as hard as I can, but again will support the nominee of the party because it's important that we get together as a united party.

WATERS: So that's the way it works in New York, the governor makes the decision? KING: Well, the reality is, at a state convention, the governor, certainly this governor, the way the party is structured, he controls an overwhelming majority of the delegates, through one force or another, the governor is going to be the guy that calling the shots.

WATERS: All right, Peter King, Republican congressman from New York, declaring his interest in the U.S. Senate seat in New York. As we report to you, the story today, that Rudy Giuliani has decided to drop out. He'll make an official announcement, we understand, in about 30 minutes -- Natalie.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Let's go back to CNN correspondent Frank Buckley. He is in our New York bureau, and he has some reaction from the Clinton, the Hillary Clinton camp -- Frank.

FRANK BUCKLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Natalie, our producer, who is traveling with Hillary Clinton right now, Phil Hirschkorn, calls in with this direct quote from Hillary Clinton in response to the information regarding Rudy Giuliani. This is a quote from Mrs. Clinton. "I have absolutely no control or say over what happens on the other side, I can only try to do my best to communicate." That is a quote from first lady Hillary Clinton, which is essentially what she has been saying all along during the past three weeks in response to questions about what will you do? Will it be difficult if Rudy Giuliani pulls out? Would you prefer if Rudy Giuliani pulls out? She has consistently said that she has no control over it.

And we should go back to say that when, in fact, Rudy Giuliani announced that he had prostate cancer, the tone of Mrs. Clinton's campaign changed dramatically as well. She had been very consistently criticizing Rudy Giuliani, especially in the days following the shooting of Patrick Dorsman (ph), and had seen a perceptible shift in the polling that, even though they were still in a statistical dead heat, suggested that Mrs. Clinton was gaining some ground. Many New York voters said that they were not pleased with how Rudy Giuliani handled the Patrick Dorsman shooting.

So the tone of the Clinton campaign changed dramatically in the past three weeks with Mrs. Clinton stopping the criticism of Rudy Giuliani and doing her best to stay out of the news. The idea being that if Rudy Giuliani and his -- with his cancer diagnosis, they did not want to appear to be attacking him or kicking sand on him while he was down. So the tone of the campaign changed.

And what she said today, which is that "I have absolutely no control or say over what happens on the other side" is consistent with what she has been saying.

We should also point out that Mrs. Clinton says that she has not had a direct conversation yet with Rudy Giuliani and she wanted to have that conversation before she provided any further reaction to what happened.

ALLEN: Frank Buckley in New York. Thanks to you, Frank.

We have again with us our senior political analyst Bill Schneider, who joins Lou and me again.

So, Hillary Clinton, I have no control over this, refers to it as the other side. It sounds like she is just staying a little bit aloof to what's going on over there.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, her strategy so far has been very successful, which is not to interfere with your opponent when he's in the process of doing great damage to himself, as he did with the marital revelations and the Dorsman shooting, and other problems that he has had.

WATERS: Hang on just a second, John King is in Washington, he has a new development -- John.

JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Lou, I have just spoken to an adviser to Congressman Rick Lazio, who we have been talking about. That adviser tells CNN that immediately after the mayor's announcement today, Congressman Lazio will put out a statement declaring his intention to seek the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate seat. That statement, we're told, will say that a formal announcement will come very soon. And even as they wait for the mayor's announcement and they draft that statement, Congressman Lazio assembling a campaign team.

We are told Republican ad man Mike Murphy, who most recently drew attention working for Senator John McCain during the presidential primaries, has already signed on with Congressman Lazio. So again, look for a very definitive statement from Congressman Lazio within minutes of the mayor's announcement.

At the same time, let me add ,top aides to the mayor, Mayor Giuliani, have begun calling Republicans here in Washington and confirming to them that the mayor, indeed, has decided not to run. They are pointing to the state Republican chairman Bill Powers, saying he right now is the man urging Republicans to unify around Congressman Lazio. One of the things to look for in the days ahead. Mayor Giuliani cannot transfer that money to Congressman Lazio, but Bill Powers is telling Republicans he could give a lot of that money to the state Republican Party and the Republican Party could use that money to help Republican candidate -- Lou.

WATERS: You just heard Congressman Peter King say, John, that he was interested in running. Will the Republican chairman get the orderly transition he wants in this matter, or is it pretty much in Pataki's hands and what he says goes?

J. KING: Well, I believe you heard Congressman King say it himself that Governor Pataki and Chairman Powers are very close, they could control the state Republican convention and, to be honest with you, they look at Congressman King and they see a man who has cooperated with President Clinton on a number of initiatives, he is not their favorite.

Chairman Powers leaned on Congressman Lazio not to run, and as Frank Sesno said earlier, there is a great sense in the party that he deserves the first crack at this. He has about $4 million in the bank, I was just told. Again, he is assembling a campaign staff. Look for Chairman Powers to try to orchestrate a very orderly transition. And in that transition, one could expect that Congressman King would be receiving a phone call relatively soon.

WATERS: And Congressman Rick Lazio, many folks are hearing his name for the very first time. Who is this man?

J. KING: Well, he is a very young congressman, but he is an up and comer in the party. He is close to the Republican leadership in the state. Again, he was planning to run before. He is from the suburbs, he is generally moderate to conservative, fits the bill in New York, but as a member of the Republican Party and an up and coming member of the Republican Party, the Democrats would argue they can pick out a handful, a half dozen votes to show him to be more conservative than the statewide audience in New York.

Frank Sesno here on the set. He has a bit more of the analysis from Republicans of how they view the strengths and weaknesses of the man it appears will be the candidate for the New York State Republican Party after the mayor, in very short order, announces he will not run for the Senate seat.

FRANK SESNO, CNN WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF: Now, Lou, if I may, some of the Republicans I've spoken to today, saying something of what we've been observing here, that Rick Lazio is an attractive moderate to conservative candidate. But he does suffer, if that's the word to be used, from lack of recognition and something of a stature gap. Frank Buckley was talking about that a bit ago. And that is something that is very important.

But there is a real silver lining, Republicans in New York say, and that is that, unlike Rudolph Giuliani, who has had shall we say with a bit of understatement a troubled past with George Pataki and others, I mean, he and Pataki really fell out of Giuliani's endorsement of Mario Cuomo for governor some time ago, they unified for the purposes of this campaign.

But this is not a state Republican Party that has been, by any means, in lock step and comfortably behind Rudy Giuliani. They will get in lockstep, at least this is what they are saying today, they hope, behind whoever emerges as the candidate, and they allow, nature, they say, to work its course. The sort of very strong anti-Hillary Clinton sentiment to sort of come to ground in a commonly supported, fresh-faced, new candidate.

And the word is, as I mentioned earlier, from someone very close to George Pataki, he's going to be, already is, firmly behind Rick Lazio. Feels he owes him one. Feels this is the man who can present a fresh, young, and appropriate face to New York voters. It is going to be very interesting to watch this take shape, especially with the team that Lazio is putting together, as John King mentioned.

WATERS: All right, Frank Sesno, Washington bureau chief, John King, senior White House correspondent.

ALLEN: And we are back with Bill Schneider, let's talk more about Rick Lazio. How well known is he just amongst New Yorkers?

SCHNEIDER: Not very well known. He is a suburban congressman from Suffolk County. New York has over 30 members of Congress. He doesn't have a lot name recognition. He is well known in Washington really more than he is in New York. I don't think one out of 100 New Yorkers would know who he is.

He is a moderate conservative. I think the problem, in part, and you have to allow for these things, is appearance. He looks younger than he is, which most people would like to do. But the fact is, it does create the impression that he is untested; that he lacks experience.

You know, New Yorkers, they're the Empire State. When they elect a senator, they want to make a statement. A Jacob Javits, a Lerman (ph), a Wagoner, a Pat Moynihan, and they're going to wonder, the Democrats are going to say: Is this guy ready to fill Senator Moynihan's shoes? Bobby Kennedy's shoes? Kenneth Keating's shows? Jacob Javits' shoes? He looks like a kid.

ALLEN: We'll take a break. We're going to talk with you more about this in just a moment. Stay with us.



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