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Monday, 9 October, 2000, 00:07 GMT 01:07 UK
Analysis: Hillary's calm after the storm
Rick Lazio and Hillary Clinton
This encounter was far more civilised
By Jane Hughes in New York

Hillary Clinton was forced to defend her decision to stay with her husband after the Monica Lewinsky affair, during a TV debate with her rival in the New York senate race, Rick Lazio.

The choices that I've made in my life are right for me

Hillary Clinton
It was one of the tensest moments in a generally civilised debate, in which the two candidates avoided the aggressive clashes of their first encounter last month.

If Mrs Clinton was disconcerted to be asked such a personal question about her marriage, she showed no sign of it.

"The choices that I've made in my life are right for me," she said.

"I can't talk about anybody else's choices, I can only say mine have been based on my religious faith, on my strong sense of family and what I believe is right and important."

Hoax question

Unlike their first debate, which was acrimonious, aggressive and personal, this one generally steered clear of character, and stuck more firmly to the issues.

The candidates differed over questions like abortion, education, and crime fighting, but did so without coming to verbal blows.

Both were nonplussed by a hoax question which was emailed to the moderators, about a proposal to allow the US postal service to bill email users 5 cents for each email they send.

False reports of the proposal are said to be widespread on the internet, but neither candidate was aware of them. Hillary Clinton pronounced the bill unworkable.

"Based on your description, I wouldn't vote for it," she said. "It sounds burdensome and not justifiable to me."

Rick Lazio, for once, agreed with her, adding: "We need to keep the government's hands off the internet."

Presidential preparation

Hillary Clinton was watched by her daughter Chelsea, but not by the president, though he reportedly helped her with her debate preparation.

She was eloquent, succinct, she knew her information, I think she'd do a much better job as senator than he would

Colleen Challenger
Her performance was certainly polished, and Rick Lazio, in contrast, appeared raw and inexperienced.

A rowdy group of Democrats and Republicans in New York city gathered to assess them over brunch.

Colleen Challenger was impressed with Hillary Clinton.

"She was eloquent, succinct, she knew her information, I think she'd do a much better job as senator than he would," she said.

But David Javdon strongly disagreed.

"He did great," he said. "She has all the power of the presidency behind her. He could have got crushed, but he didn't - he held his own."

Overall, the consensus is that most people have already decided who to vote for, and the debate is unlikely to help the crucial undecideds make up their minds.

With less than a month to go until election day, and with Hillary Clinton ahead in the polls, the race still appears to be hers to win or lose.

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See also:

08 Oct 00 | Americas
Hillary, Lazio in second face off
14 Sep 00 | Americas
Hillary attacked in TV debate
20 May 00 | Americas
Rick Lazio: NY underdog
12 Sep 00 | Americas
Women find fault with Hillary
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