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New York Mayor Giuliani Decides Against U.S. Senate Race: Rep. Lazio Expected to Declare CandidacyAired May 19, 2000 - 1:49 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Well, the story that's dominating this first hour of CNN TODAY is the confirmation out of New York that Mayor Rudy Giuliani will indeed drop out of the U.S. Senate race there and the race that he intended to run against Hillary Rodham Clinton. We're covering a number of different aspects of this story today as the political dynamic changes dramatically, including the fact that Congressman Rick Lazio of Long Island is the apparent heir-apparent to the mayor, Rudy Giuliani.
And John King has some more on this man we're just beginning to get to know.
JOHN KING, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Lou. As we reported previously, Congressman Lazio already drafting a statement in which he will declare his intention to seek the Republican nomination for this Senate seat, party leaders in New York already trying to clear the field for him.
We've been describing him as moderate to conservative. Let's take a little bit more closer look at his record. For example, he supported Newt Gingrich when Newt Gingrich ran a competitive race for speaker of the House of Representatives. That's something the first lady won't forget as she tried to portray Congressman Lazio as too far to the right to win statewide in New York.
But he's also broken with the Republican Party leadership on a number of key issues. For example, he supported the Brady Bill, calling for a background check on handgun purchases. He supported the ban on those so-called assault weapons. That was a vote most conservatives were against the administration, Congressman Lazio's position the same as the president of the United States.
He also was a supporter of the family leave Law, that one of the things the first lady talks about frequently as she tries to appeal to moderate, suburban moms. So, again, he will be -- his position the same as the first lady's on the Brady Bill, on assault weapons, on family leave.
On one key issue on which they did disagree, however, Congressman Lazio voted to impeach the president of the United States. Of course, the first lady disagrees with that vote -- Lou.
WATERS: What's there, then, John, to separate these two in this campaign? What do they fight about?
KING: Well, already, we saw from the first lady's strategy, she wants to nationalize this election. She wants to make it Democratic themes versus Republican themes because, in a statewide election in New York, that has proven successful for her husband.
Now -- but Congressman Lazio will be tough to typecast here based on his record. Interest groups rate congressmen consistently. Let's look at his ratings: 73 percent from the Christian Coalition, so a fairly high rating from a fairly conservative organization; 52 percent from the American Conservative Union, a split vote there that many conservatives would say that's not good enough; yet, at the same time, 77 percent from the League of Conservation Voters, the environment obviously a very important issue in New York. This a congressman whose record is generally moderate, reflecting the state of New York.
At the same time, again, though, he did vote for impeachment, he was a Newt Gingrich supporter. The first lady will try to paint him as too conservative. And because he is little known and because she has more money, she'll have a chance to do that initially. His challenge will be to make the case: That's not true, I am in the mainstream in New York. And look for him, much like the mayor, to say not only is he in the mainstream in New York, but that he's from New York.
And a little more on that: Let's bring in Frank Sesno, Lou.
FRANK SESNO, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF: Yes, very quickly, if I can, John, some interesting points pulling off from what you just said. Having just spoken with a Hillary Clinton adviser, much of what you said being borne out. Look: Nothing much changes, this adviser said, except that if it's Rick Lazio -- and he's not there yet -- but if it's him, here are the words. You'll probably hear them a lot: "a classic Gingrich lieutenant."
So there you have it, that this is someone who supported Newt Gingrich, his Contract with America, a cluster of issues, as it's described, that Newt Gingrich supported, trying to capitalize here on the somewhat less-than-popular stature that Newt Gingrich enjoyed, certainly, in the state of New York.
And, finally, this other point from this Hillary Clinton adviser: This starts, in this person's words, the second campaign. And if you think of it like that, the rationale goes, Hillary Clinton is in a much better position having won some grudging support in the state of New York and perhaps, at least, addressed, if not deflecting entirely, the carpetbagger issue.
So the Clinton force is already positioning themselves to start a second rejuvenated campaign, redirecting their fire, but staying on target on the issues of taxes, children, welfare, and the issues that she's made hers throughout this campaign so far -- Lou.
WATERS: All right, Frank Sesno, John King in Washington.
We're now hearing that sometime between 3:00 and 4:00 p.m. Eastern this afternoon, Rudy Giuliani, the mayor of New York, will make an official announcement at City Hall that he intends to withdraw from the U.S. Senate race from there.
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