August 11, 2005

Can Jeanine Pirro Defeat Hillary Clinton?

From the Washington Post:
NEW YORK, Aug 10 -- Jeanine Pirro, a street-smart and media-savvy Republican prosecutor, launched her campaign for the U.S. Senate on Wednesday, insisting that incumbent Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton wants to use the state as a "doormat to the White House. New York deserves a senator who has New York's interests at heart," Pirro told a standing-room-only gaggle of local and national media people at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel in Midtown Manhattan. "Not the divided loyalties of one seeking to satisfy the needs of people in Iowa, New Hampshire or Florida.""You can't run for two offices at once," she added.Pirro's entry into the race promises a fierce battle in 2006. She is a well-regarded three-term district attorney in suburban Westchester County, with a telegenic smile and rapier wit. And polls suggest that although Clinton is a popular senator, a majority of New Yorkers prefer that the senator forgo a much-rumored White House run in 2008.
This could be a really interesting race. Aside from the local NY implications, it is clear that Pirro will try to force Hillary to commit to serving out her term. It is certainly a good question to ask her - if elected, will you serve your full term? If I am a New Yorker, do I want to elect someone who will only serve 2 years of the 6 year term and only considers her service as Senator from New York as a mere stepping stone for other political office?

Dick Morris believes that Pirro could be a real challenge to Ms. Clinton:
While Hillary would have no problem dispatching an opponent like Nixon son-in-law Edward Cox or Yonkers Mayor John Spencer (the two other possible GOP contenders), Pirro presents a real problem. Jeanine Pirro is pro-choice, pro-gun control, pro-affirmative action, pro-gay-civil unions and pro-immigration. And, of course, she's a woman. In a sense, Hillary will have to end up running against someone who is quite like herself in her public positions: Except, of course, Pirro is a good old-fashioned anti-tax, anti-crime, tough-on-terror Republican from the suburbs. Hillary would love to cloak her Senate re-election as a necessity in the face of a determined GOP effort to overturn Roe vs. Wade and to roll back the clock on gun controls. But against Pirro, she will be disarmed of all her best issues. She will have to run on her own record, which is limited at best. Pirro, on the other hand, can point out that Hillary refuses to say that she will serve out her term if elected — since we all know that the day the returns are in she will start her campaign for president. (Hillary has her own twist on the famous line of Gen. Sherman: "If elected, I refuse to serve").
Evidently, Pirro does come with some baggage...her husband's baggage, actually (sound familiar?):
But Pirro, 54, comes with her own issues, not least her husband -- Albert Pirro -- who is a convicted felon, having served 11 months in prison for hiding $1 million in taxable income. He was accused of claiming dozens of luxury items, from his Ferrari and her Mercedes-Benz to the salaries of employees who care for their pet pigs, as business expenses. Albert Pirro lost his law license but remains an influential lobbyist. More recently, New York media reports said a capo in the Gambino crime family was taped by FBI agents saying that Pirro had leaked information to the mob about an investigation by the district attorney. Pirro has denied the allegations, calling them "triple hearsay." He did acknowledge some years ago -- after being confronted with DNA evidence -- that he had fathered a child out of wedlock. Jeanine Pirro has suffered no backlash from voters, though, having been reelected easily since the allegations became public.
Of course, Hillary will be unable to exploit Mr. Pirro's character (or apparent lack thereof)...or else Bill Clinton's past indiscretions can be put center stage.

Hillary Clinton's lead is already shrinking:
ALBANY, N.Y. -- Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's lead over potential Republican opponent Jeanine Pirro has slipped, but still remains hefty, a statewide poll reported Wednesday. The WNBC-Marist College poll, conducted by Marist College's Institute for Public Opinion, had the former first lady leading the Westchester County district attorney, 50 percent to 28 percent. Clinton led Pirro, 64 percent to 28 percent, in an April poll from the Poughkeepsie-based institute. ... While 55 percent of voters said they believed Democrat Clinton would run for president in 2008, only 35 percent of them said they wanted her to. New York voters were divided on whether Clinton should pledge to serve her full, six-year Senate term if re-elected. Thirty-nine percent said she should take the pledge while 44 percent said she should not.
What is the Democratic reaction? So far, I haven't seen many Democratic columnists looking at the race yet (but that will change). Daily Kos isn't worried: "This won't be much of a race. The GOP hopes to force her to spend money (and she will), but they needed a better candidate to make a significant dent in her war chest." Democratic Underground, always a real classy bunch, is making fun of Ms. Pirro losing a page from her prepared speech (resulting in 32 seconds of silence). They even prepared a "campaign ad" based on the 32 seconds of silence. I have seen many other left of center blogs that have focused on the same thing. As someone who has had to do some public speaking, I certainly can empathize with her...

With Clinton's lead primarily based upon her opponent's lack of name recognition and already slipping, I think the Democrats should be taking Pirro a bit more seriously.
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