Alex's Outlook

Monday, December 29, 2003

Rudy vs Hillary 2006

New York venture capitalist John Ellis reports that Rudy is preparing for the "Super Bowl of Senate races": a challenge to Hillary Clinton in 2006.

The word around New York is that our former mayor, Rudy Giuliani, has decided to challenge Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton when she seeks reelection in 2006 — a matchup we almost saw in 2002 before he withdrew for personal reasons. Giuliani won't confirm or deny it (as recently as Friday he told radio host Don Imus he hadn't made up his mind), but two well-placed GOP insiders say it's "basically a done deal."

[...]

For Giuliani, challenging Clinton is a necessary step if he hopes to be a national GOP player. He could, if he chose, run for governor in 2006, but that wouldn't do him much good on the national stage. He would still be a pro-gay, pro-choice "Rockefeller Republican."

But Senator Giuliani would be a different matter. He would have slain the dragon, and slaying the dragon would bestow upon him exalted status. Major points of difference with the GOP's core constituencies — like the sanctity of life (abortion) and the evolution of mankind (stem cell research) — would become much less disqualifying.

Rudy is taking a major risk. He could have challenged Sen. Schumer, and won without too strenuous an effort. Apparently he has set his sights higher. It's certainly true that beating Schumer wouldn't have done Rudy much good nationally, but taking on Hillary is a much bigger gamble - especially if Hillary ousts Daschle as Senate Minority Leader after Senate Democrats get decimated in 2004. On the other hand, he would be a shoo-in for the 2008 Republican presidential ticket if he took down Hillary, and Hillary would be eliminated from the national scene, much as NY Gov. Mario Cuomo's prospects were terminated after George Pataki defeated him in 1994.

Still, the Republicans already have a bumper crop of strong presidential nominees in 2008. They would be better served by a center-right replacement for Chuck Schumer than a risky challenge to Hillary, a significantly stronger incumbent; and Rudy's Senate career would only last two years even if he won a long-shot challenge.

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