When New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani announced he would not run for the US Senate, Long Island congressman Rick Lazio wasted no time.
When New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani announced he would not run
for the US Senate, Long Island congressman Rick Lazio wasted no
Rep. Lazio entered the race for the Senate seat, for which he will
quickly have to battle first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton. Although
Giuliani’s exit signaled the end of one of the most anticipated
political showdowns of this campaign season, the media did not appear to
spend too much time focusing on the mayor’s plans following his
decision. Instead, the media quickly focused on who would replace
Giuliani as the Republican candidate for the New York Senate seat.
What did the media have to say regarding the sudden candidacy of
Lazio? CARMA International reviewed news reports from the first few days
of his candidacy to find the answer. The manner in which Lazio began his
campaign earned him much praise, with the media noting that the campaign
was off to a good start. As early as Monday, May 22, The New York Times
published an editorial that said, ’Representative Rick Lazio has gotten
off to an energetic start in his race for the Senate.’
The media also provided frequent coverage of Rep. Lazio’s voting record,
which was most often described as moderate. US News & World Report
wrote, ’With his ethnic roots and suburban background, his moderate
voting record, and pro-abortion position, he has a near ideal profile
for a statewide Republican candidate in New York.’(May 29, 2000)
There was also coverage, however, that took a distinctly different view
of Rep. Lazio’s voting record, although these reports appeared less
Supporters of Clinton’s campaign often described Lazio as a Newt
Gingrich clone in an effort to paint him as a member of the far right.
Newsweek (May 29) quoted Clinton aide Harold Ickes as saying, ’All too
often Rick Lazio was doing the work of Newt Gingrich and Dick Armey and
the rest of the radical Republican leadership.’
The media often referred to Lazio as an unknown. Both depictions of
Lazio’s voting record were attempts to fill in the blanks for the public
about his background.
Perhaps the most favorable coverage for Lazio was suggestions that he
would be a formidable candidate. Time (May 29) reported that Clinton
might find Lazio ’a tougher opponent than Rudy would have been.’
Elsewhere, the Congressman was described as a telegenic family man who
is eager to campaign and lacks the baggage that the abrasive Giuliani
had. Democratic strategist Hank Sheinkopf told CBS (May 22) that ’Rick
Lazio could, in fact, be Hillary Clinton’s worst nightmare.’
Despite that possibility, the media noted that Lazio was an underdog in
the polls, with Clinton leading by about 14 points at the time the Long
Island congressman announced his candidacy, with 17% undecided. However,
analysts expected Lazio to improve on those numbers significantly as his
campaign gained steam, possibly even being head-to-head with Clinton in
the polls by the time this column is published.
Lazio’s campaign appears to be off to a quick start and there are
favorable expectations. But as Giuliani’s exit illustrated, things can
The New York Senate race remains one to watch.
Evaluation and analysis by CARMA International. Media Watch can be found