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banner Monday, 17 January, 2000, 16:17 GMT
Hillary bites the Big Apple

Efforts to fit in have not always been successful

By Jane Hughes in New York

There is one word you hear more than any other when you talk to New Yorkers about Hillary Clinton's bid to be their new senator: "Carpetbagger".

Hillary Clinton isn't from New York, and that bothers a lot of New Yorkers.

So she will be hoping her recent move into her new home in quintessentially suburban Chappaqua will help dispel her image as outsider.

As she settles into the commuter marriage lifestyle familiar to so many other Americans, her campaign is noticeably moving up a gear.

First lady firsts

Mrs Clinton confirmed that she would become the first American President's wife to run for office in November.

Bill and Hillary get into a New York state of mind
At the start of the year she became the first First Lady to maintain her own, separate residence, enabling her to take a step back from official duties and focus her attention on her senate ambitions.

Shortly afterwards, as if confirming her presence on New York's political stage, she took up a long-standing invitation to appear on the popular David Letterman show - a move seen by many as an effort to bring her campaign into the mainstream.

Hillary Clinton has already made it clear what the key issues of her candidacy will be.

Education is a priority; so is health care and child welfare; the kind of subjects being addressed by Democratic candidates in other campaigns around the nation.

But this isn't like other campaigns. This will be one of the most closely watched Senate races ever run, and could even eclipse the Presidential election; not just because the First Lady is breaking new ground by running, but because she is pitting herself against such a high profile and tough Republican opponent.

Rudy's challenge

New York's notoriously abrasive mayor, Rudolph Giuliani, is the man expected to run against her.

Giuliani: Taking no prisoners
Although he hasn't yet formally declared his candidacy, he has appointed a campaign manager, spends a lot of time in upstate New York, and takes every opportunity he can to lambast Mrs Clinton.

When she moved into her new home, for example, he underlined the fact that he still considers her an outsider with a sarcasm-laden welcome.

"I feel very, very proud of the fact that people from all around the country want to come to New York, including people from Arkansas," he said. "We welcome all newcomers."

Mayor Giuliani was speaking from a position of strength.

City transformed

He has been ahead of the First Lady in the opinion polls for several months now.

New Yorkers are wary of the new girl in town
As Mayor of New York City, and a consummate self-publicist, his name is in the headlines most days.

New York's Millennium celebrations, for example, were a heaven-sent opportunity for him to trumpet the way he has presided over a transformation of the Big Apple from crime capital of the US to a family-friendly city.

The Mayor has also made much of early campaign gaffes, like Mrs Clinton's hamfisted attempt to transfer her allegiance to the local baseball team, the Yankees; she has always supported her home team, the Chicago Cubs, in the past.

He was equally scathing about her demeanour during a Middle East tour, when she failed to react to anti-Israeli comments by the wife of the Palestinian President, Yasser Arafat. One hostile local paper reported on the incident with the headline, "Shame on you, Hillary!"

Mayor Giuliani is helped by the fact that Hillary Clinton arouses vehement hostility among many people.

Clinton fatigue

Some women may have admired her dignified demeanour during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, but many others are revolted by the whole affair and sick of both the Clintons.

Opponents also remember her role in the scandals that have dogged the Clinton White House like the Whitewater investigation, the so-called Filegate incident, when key files went missing, and the Travelgate White House travel office sackings.

...that is the question
But Mayor Giuliani has problems of his own. Though many upstate voters admire the way he is seen as having tamed the untameable Big Apple, many more in the city regard him as a humourless, inflexible bully.

His defence of the New York Police Department when four officers shot dead an unarmed African immigrant made him particularly unpopular. Their trial is due to begin at the end of January, which could create problems for him.

When it comes to polling day, some voters may feel they are holding their noses and choosing the lesser of two evils.

One woman paused from shopping in the New Year sales to sum up a common sentiment.

"They're both awful," she said. "I don't want to vote for either of them. I wish the whole thing would just go away."

But with more than nine months of campaigning still to go, and hundreds of reporters covering the race, that is one thing that isn't likely to happen.
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Vote USA 2000 Contents

See also:
13 Jan 00 |  Americas
Hillary Clinton does Letterman
23 Nov 99 |  Americas
First Lady confirms Senate ambition
10 Jul 99 |  Americas
Hillary Clinton: View from the street
01 Aug 99 |  Americas
Hillary: 'We have love'
23 Oct 99 |  Americas
Hillary in New York pizza row
31 Aug 99 |  Americas
Mixed emotions for Hillary's new neighbours
28 Sep 99 |  Americas
Hillary steps out of Bill's shadow
06 Jul 99 |  Americas
Hillary moves on New York

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