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Breaking News

Giuliani Will Not Run for U.S. Senate; Rep. Lazio Expected to Enter Race

Aired May 19, 2000 - 2:01 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Rudy Giuliani will not run for the United States Senate. He is going to give us his reasons within the next hour or so. We are now being told between 3:00 and 4:00 p.m., about an hour or two hours from now. We know the mayor has prostate cancer, he told us that within the past three weeks. He also has some personal problems, you know, separation from his wife.

In the meantime, we are trying to stay on top of this story. Already, another Republican is expected to enter the race against Hillary Rodham Clinton. He is Rick Lazio, the congressman from Long Island. Lazio has long expressed an interest in this race. He nearly entered several weeks back when Giuliani still was the presumed candidate. We don't know if anyone else will enter. Source tells CNN, Governor Pataki will not enter.

CNN has received a brief a comment from Mrs. Clinton, in reference to Giuliani. Mrs. Clinton says she has no control over what occurs on the Republican side. Her job, she says, is to deliver her message.

Our senior political analyst Bill Schneider is here, and that's what you would expect Hillary Rodham Clinton to say today, but I imagine their plans, although maybe not just kicking in, have been in the works for a while anticipating this.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Oh yes, they figure that they better be prepared to run against any candidate, Lazio, Giuliani or anyone else, but she's been staying away from it, and Giuliani, clearly, has had problems, and while he's been in the news, she has stayed away.

WATERS: And the name we are hearing today is Rick Lazio. Of course, we understand, he is going to make a statement at 5:45 at St. John's University. Then he will head over to a cancer forum on Long Island that has been previously planned for another statement at 6:15. He's the presumed candidate.

SCHNEIDER: Well, the governor, Pataki, who might be a strong candidate himself, has said he doesn't want to run , he will endorse Rick Lazio, who has expressed interest in running fro a long time and was pressured not to run by the Republican establishment, particularly in Washington, which may disagree with Giuliani on a lot of issues, but they want to keep Mrs. Clinton out of the Senate. So they all drew ranks behind him, and now they are going to the same thing with Rick Lazio.

WATERS: Rick Lazio has, for quite some time now, had what some people were saying, we haven't even heard the man speak yet, has a stature gap. What is that all about?

SCHNEIDER: Well, he's a congressman from Long Island, there are 30-some congressmen from New York. And as a result, he's not very well known, that's all it means. He doesn't have name recognition nor does he have the kind of long record of achievement and experience that a lot of New Yorkers might expect in a United States senator, particularly when compared with first lady, the first first lady ever to run for the Senate.

He has some advantages, he's moderately conservative. We are informed by his office that he describes himself as a supporter of abortion rights, even though the anti-abortion organizations give him a mixed record on abortion. He also could get the endorsement, however, of the Conservative Party, which is a third party in New York that if Giuliani had been the candidate might have endorsed a fringe candidate on the right who could have taken votes away from Giuliani. They have said that they find Rick Lazio acceptable, so that will help him consolidate the conservative vote against Mrs. Clinton.

WATERS: As you have already pointed out, the Clinton campaign is going to approach this as a national campaign, not so the dynamic has changed considerably from the personalities of Giuliani and Clinton, to now a Republican versus Democrat.

SCHNEIDER: And in that kind of race Mrs. Clinton is likely to win, which is why I think her side is jubilant because in national politics New York is generally Democratic. And Gore is in the lead over George Bush in New York, not a huge lead, but he has been in a fairly persistent lead. In national politics, the Democrats win. And if they see this as a national race, Mrs. Clinton clearly has the edge.

Clearly, what Rick Lazio is going to say is: I'm a New Yorker. I was born in New York, I believe he was. I was brought up in New York. I'm one of you. Who is this woman coming into your state, this carpetbagger? That is going to be his big issue.

Her big issue is: I'm going to the United States Senate, where we vote on national issues, where everything is Democrats versus Republicans. And I am going to stand up to those Republicans. He hasn't done that. He's one of them.

WATERS: So we are going to hear from Rick Lazio in just a few hours now. What is most important for him? I mean, the first image of him this evening as a national candidate, what does he have to be thinking right now?

SCHNEIDER: He wants to show New Yorkers that he's in the mainstream, that he's not some sort of extreme right-wing candidate, that he is one of them. The stature problem is important, but I'm not sure what he can do about it, perhaps the governor and the mayor will be there by his side to show that they consider him an equal, a colleague, to give him a little of their stature because that is the one problem that there is very little that he can do about.

WATERS: Let's touch on money just a little bit. Lazio has $3 million, not a lot, I imagine he will get a lot more from around the country. Giuliani has $16 million. He can't give that directly to Lazio, but what does he do, does he turn it over to Republican Party so they can run soft ads for Lazio?

SCHNEIDER: I believe he can do that. He could save it of course for his own political future. Most of the money was given to him from Republicans and conservatives around the country who don't agree with him on many issues but want to stop Mrs. Clinton, and a lot of them might now give money to Rick Lazio. What is Giuliani going to do? Well, my guess is, he will find a way to get that money into the Republican Party so that they can help Rick Lazio.

WATERS: And so that Giuliani has a future in the Republican Party?

SCHNEIDER: Yes, Giuliani still has a future. Look, he is going to be treated for cancer, he has to sort out his personal problems, and he has always made it known that he wants to be governor of New York, even more than senator. Pataki can run for a third term in New York. If he doesn't, I think Giuliani will be a strong contender.

WATERS: All right, Bill Schneider, senior political analyst.

Natalie, what's next?

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: And our senior White House correspondent John King confirmed this story for us earlier in the day.

And let's talk more, John, about Hillary Rodham Clinton and her strategy now that Bill Schneider has been talking about what Lazio has to do now. What about Hillary?

JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, her general strategy is unlikely to change, Natalie. All along, the first lady has wanted to run this race on national themes, also run it, as Bill Schneider has been talking about, on stature issue. This is a race succeed a very giant man in the Senate, Daniel Patrick Moynihan. She wants to run on the issues, much like her husband is running on and much like Al Gore will run on in the race for president, making the case that George W. Bush and the Republicans want a big risky tax cut that endanger Social Security, would endanger Medicare.

She will do everything she can do to paint Congressman Lazio, assuming he is the candidate, as a lieutenant of Newt Gingrich. Now, his voting record will make that difficult should he step up. Like the first lady, he supports abortion rights. There is a bit of a disagreement over the so-called "late-term" abortion procedure, but he is supporter of abortion rights. He's fore gun control, voted for the Brady Bill and the assault weapons ban. He also voted for family leave, a key issue of the first lady.

So on some of the big domestic policy issues, they are not terribly far apart. And we should not underestimate Congressman Lazio. He was first elected in 1992, he beat an incumbent congressman, Democrat Tom Downy. Tom Downy spent more than a million dollars, Rick Lazio spent $267,000 to win that race by running against Tom Downy as a captive of Washington insiders.

Tom Downy happens to be a very close personal friend of the vice president of the United States, a key adviser to the Gore campaign. So we may have lost Rudy Giuliani in this race. There will still be a great incentive in the Clinton White House and in the vice president's campaign to help the first lady in this race.

Her campaign has anticipated this possibility, they have been expecting the possibility of another candidate. They say their issues will remain the same. They obviously now have a giant immediate fund- raising edge over Congressman Lazio.

The key thing now will be: Can she define him before he defines himself? She has money in the bank to do that through advertising, the question will be: Does she want to go negative?

She's running biographical ads right now, does she want to go negative in campaign ads that, say, paint Congressman Lazio, again, assuming he is the candidate as a Gingrich Republican at a time when she is still trying to make the case to the people of New York that she would represent them.

And again, as Bill Schneider has said, and as the mayor stressed, Congressman Lazio will make the case that he's from New York, and that the first lady is an outsider.

ALLEN: Well, interesting that you say he became a congressman by spending just over $200,000. That's pretty amazing. Can you add to that, tell us I guess about his personality, his, perhaps, his likability among voters? What kind of guy is he outside of his record on a more personal level?

KING: He was a local prosecutor and a state legislature when he ran that race. He is known as someone who is very energetic, a very good campaigner, likes to be out mixing it up with people. That will be one of his challenges now, as he tries to introduce himself to the rest of New York. He is from Long Island, relatively well-known there, not known throughout the rest of the state. That's his challenge now.

ALLEN: OK, well, we certainly will be hearing more about him, and learning more about him on a national level now, as he steps up to the plate to run for senator. John King in Washington.

Now, for more, here is Lou.

WATERS: We have a friend of the mayor's on the line, Congressman Vito Fossella of New York.

Of course, we are anxious to know why the mayor is making the decision that he has made. Can you shed any light on that? Hello, congressman? I'm not hearing him. Are you hearing him, Natalie?

ALLEN: I'm not hearing him.

WATERS: OK, so where do we go from here?

OK, Natalie, take it back.

ALLEN: All right, we are going to go back to John King now actually in our Washington bureau, who has just received yet some more information regarding this story -- John.

KING: Well, Natalie, we have further proof of how the New York State Republican Party and its leaders are immediately trying to rally around Congressman Rick Lazio as their replacement candidate.

Wolf Blitzer calling in information, confirming what we had previously reported, that Governor George Pataki will not run for this seat, and Wolf Blitzer adding in his new information that the governor will quickly endorse the expected candidacy of Congressman Rick Lazio.

So again, the state Republican leadership rallying around Congressman Lazio. I was told by a top adviser to the congressman just a few minutes ago, his statement is already drafted, already printed on paper. Within minutes of the mayor saying he will not run, look for a statement from Congressman Lazio saying that he intends to run, and plans a formal announcement very, very soon.

ALLEN: Well, it does sounds like everyone is rallying behind the one guy. Give us the worst case scenario, John. If this hadn't happened, what kind of scene could we have seen with the Republican Party or perhaps we could still could, if they don't all get their act together and get behind one person rather quickly at this stage of the game?

KING: Well, the dream candidate for most New York Republicans would be their governor, George Pataki. Again, he do not want to run for this seat. The possibility would be, as we heard Congressman Peter King, another Republican from the Long Island area on our air earlier, he thought he might run.

Congressman Lazio, though, was forced out of the race, pressured not to run by the governor and by the state Republican chairman, a very influential man and powerful man in state Republican politics, Bill Powers. The governor and Bill Powers are very tight. They had convinced Congressman Lazio not to run. They view his youth and his energy and his record as potential assets in this race. They just thought the mayor, even though they are not great fans of the mayor personally, would be a better candidate, especially in raising money.

Now they are rallying around Congressman Lazio, and Peter King, the other congressman, said on our air earlier, if that were to happen, he expects that the convention, the New York State Republican convention will be pretty much a done deal. Look for Peter King to say in the next few days that he sees the party rallying around Congressman Lazio and that he will too. ALLEN: John King, Washington bureau, thank you.

And just a quick reminder to our viewers. No exact time yet for an official announcement from the mayor that he's stepping down from the race, but we hear that it may take place between 3:00 and 4:00 p.m. Eastern this afternoon. We will bring you live coverage of that.

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