Despite Past, N.Y. GOP Unites for Giuliani
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, August 28, 1999; Page A1
ROCHESTER, N.Y. Rudolph W. Giuliani, mayor of New York City, is preaching on the work ethic and welfare, how he has saved hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers from Democrat-induced dependence on the dole. That's his rap; that's how he's raising money. New York today, he is saying, is Republicanism at its best.
"I want you to know what my philosophy is. And I want you to know what my record is. And if you agree with what I've done as mayor in New York City, then those are the things I'm gonna do in the U.S. Senate," he promises supporters at a fund-raiser here.
"If you want somebody who can fight, I can fight."
Well, in fact, New York Republicans have fought with Giuliani enough to know that, for sure, this is a candidate who can fight. Perhaps more important, national Republicans want that fighter, too. He also is the highest-profile candidate the party could find to oppose a Democrat who may be an outsider but who has demonstrated political star power.
And so over the last several weeks, the Republican Party has closed ranks behind the New York mayor, ensuring that he will be the party's nominee for Senate -- without the usual New York row.
They want him so much that his ego as self-described "mayor of the capital of the world" doesn't matter. Nor does it matter that, to the party, he is like a "pet wolf," as one state operative described him. And for now, forget that he insulted a once powerful Republican senator (Alfonse M. D'Amato) and denigrated the state's Republican governor (George E. Pataki).
What's important is that Giuliani's bite is bigger than his bark, he's a take-no-prisoners politician, and his record is considered impressive -- all of which makes him the anointed candidate to carry forward the GOP's holy war: stopping what one Republican called the "queen of the Democrats," first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton.
"Now Rudy is in a position where he's running his own show," said Hank Sheinkopf, a New York political consultant. "The party has no choice but to be with him. They don't want to lose that seat."
A New York Senate race, by any account, is a major-league contest. But now it has World Series implications. "By Hillary Clinton becoming the presumptive nominee for the other party, she had in effect nationalized this," said Republican National Committee Chairman Jim Nicholson.
And that is why D'Amato and Pataki had to swallow hard and set aside their differences with Giuliani, such as Giuliani's contemptuous 1994 criticism of Pataki as unethical and his endorsement not of Pataki, but of the incumbent Democratic governor, Mario M. Cuomo, the same year. Now, in a "transaction" of politics that has little to do with who likes whom, Pataki and D'Amato have had to throw their lot in with Giuliani to get a job done, one state operative said.
Nicholson characterized that process as "common-sense conversations going on among interested national parties" about how to avoid a divisive GOP primary in a race where unity is paramount.
Because of the high stakes and the high profile, Pataki urged Giuliani to announce quickly. So did William Powers, the state GOP chairman, and so did Rep. Rick Lazio, who acquiesced to Pataki's request and postponed his own declaration for the Senate race until Giuliani has made his position formal.
But like Clinton, Giuliani has not formally announced.
So people want to know: "Mr. Mayor, are you officially running or not?" That's a man with his hands cupped to his mouth, yelling from within the crowd of 150 donors at the finger-food fund-raiser here this week. Giuliani laughs. He's amused. "No, I'm not officially running. But we're getting there."
By now, of course, it seems all but certain that he will run. He is moving around the state campaigning and raising money, jumping the great divide between the city and the upstate regions that loathe it: Eating barbecue in Binghamton; rubbing shoulders at the racetrack in Saratoga. He even flew down to Little Rock, where Clinton once was first lady, underscoring her outsider status in New York. Back in New York, his aides hoisted the Arkansas flag above City Hall to drive home the point.
Although there is some nervousness about just what Giuliani will do and when he'll do it, Powers said that if Giuliani is looking and sounding like a candidate, "to me, that's a commitment."
"Somebody who isn't running for office isn't gonna get off their ass and drive to Saratoga," Powers said.
Powers knows Giuliani is ignoring his suggestion that he announce by month's end, and Powers now says it's no big deal. "I'm not saying I didn't say it," he said. "I did say it. But I can also understand what he's doing. . . . One thing you learn in this business is you don't get everything you want when you want it. He'll make an announcement in a time frame that works best for him."
Giuliani campaign aides are coy. The standard response to the question about when Giuliani will declare is from Bruce Teitelbaum, his top political aide: "He's thinking about running for the Senate. He's traveling around the state of New York raising money. But he has not yet decided whether or not he'll enter the race. He's seriously thinking about it. He's close to making a decision."
Giuliani has brought in at least $4.5 million from his fund-raisers, including $1.5 million in the last seven weeks, Teitelbaum said.
The state party calls itself the "Republican juggernaut," and Giuliani is its most dramatic example. Although the GOP is outnumbered 5 to 3 by the Democrats in terms of registered voters, it leads 55 of the state's 62 counties. The party also holds the mayor's seat in four of the state's six biggest cities.
In New York state, Giuliani has been a far more moderate Republican than is traditional. A former U.S. attorney, he is as tough as they come on crime, welfare reform and big government, but he is tolerant on homosexuality, immigrants and abortion rights. He has had to be. Any Republican, as mayor of the relatively liberal New York City, "would have to drift from some normative Republican Party positions to survive," said Sheinkopf. "He is different from the main-line Republicans because of the positions he occupies."
But in his second term as mayor, with police brutality cases piling up along with increasing racial tension, Giuliani's charm has begun to wear thin. Analysts are split as to whether he could win City Hall again.
In a poll last month by the Marist Institute for Public Opinion, Giuliani pulled only 29 percent of New York City respondents, compared with Clinton's 62 percent. He polled far more impressively in the New York City suburbs (54 percent) and regions upstate (nearly 56 percent), where Clinton's support is weakest.
"If he can count, he's nervous," a GOP operative said of Giuliani. And analysts predict the race will be tight until the end, with small parties likely to become crucial. That is why Giuliani, like Clinton, visited the leader of the 150,000-member Independence Party, Thomas Golisano, this week while in Rochester. Like Clinton, Giuliani asked for Golisano's support.
And like Clinton and Giuliani, Golisano is waiting. "It's way too early to tell" is all he would say.
© 1999 The Washington Post Company