Tue, Apr 03, 2007 - Page 7 News List

Early polls indicate Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani close

AP , ALBANY, NEW YORK

Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton and Republican Rudy Giuliani are close in the polls, raising millions of dollars each and strutting across the campaign trail. Again.

The campaign for of the 2008 presidential election is echoing another political battle between the two heavyweights -- the 2000 Senate race. But voters never had a chance to choose between them because Giuliani had to drop out of the Senate race for health reasons.

In March 2000, Giuliani was the mayor of New York City who held a slight lead in the polls over then-first lady Clinton as they geared up for their history-making Senate race showdown. It was a political drama custom-made for the New York tabloids: the tough-talking, crime-fighting former federal prosecutor versus the most famous woman in the world with a husband in the Oval Office.

She was, he said, the interloper from Arkansas via Washington and "a leader of the ultra-left wing Democrats" who would use the Senate seat "as a springboard" to run for president.

He, she countered, perhaps lacked the proper temperament to serve in the Senate because "the mayor always gets angry about things."

But the race that was supposed to rival the 2000 presidential fight between Vice President Al Gore and Texas Governor George W. Bush never came off.

Giuliani was diagnosed with prostate cancer in April and, after the breakup of his second marriage became public knowledge in May, he quit the race. She coasted to victory over a little-known congressman from Long Island, Rick Lazio.

Fast forward to 2007. The race that might have been could wind up being The Race.

Clinton leads national polls for the Democratic nomination for president. Giuliani leads for the Republican nomination. A Time magazine national poll out last week had Giuliani leading Clinton, 47 percent to 43 percent.

"Salivation time for tabloid reporters," said Hank Sheinkopf, a Democratic strategist who worked on President Bill Clinton's 1996 re-election campaign, but is not involved with the current Clinton White House run.

"Neither one of them are what you would call gentle campaigners," added Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

So far, the two campaigns have largely ignored each other except for the occasional swipe from the ex-mayor, who is selling himself nationally as the Republican candidate best equipped to beat her.

At the annual Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington early this month, Giuliani told the crowd that when he became mayor, he thought he could reform the city's school system.

"OK, I made mistakes. I'm going to admit them and apologize for them," he said with an impish smile and a strategic pause.

The laughter grew as it dawned on the crowd that he was taking a poke at Clinton's refusal to say her 2002 vote to authorize the Iraq war was a mistake.

"It's been my home turf longer than Hillary's," Giuliani said at the St. Patrick's Day parade in New York City when asked about running in a general election against Clinton in her home state.

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