- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 8, 2000

Hillary Rodham Clinton's victory in the New York Senate race against Rick Lazio is significant for many reasons. At a superficial level, it stands as a historical curiosity, marking the first time a first lady has mounted a campaign for political office out of the White House, and done so successfully. But there are deeper layers to this victory that must be peeled away and examined.

The recriminations that come with the supposed clarity of hindsight have already begun as Rep. Rick Lazio's campaign undergoes the inevitable post mortems. There are complaints that he misdirected his energies by focusing too closely on campaign-finance reform; that he neglected upstate New York; that he failed to ignite as a statewide personality. True or not, these are not the reasons for Mr. Lazio's defeat.

Entering the race late after New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani unexpectedly withdrew, Mr. Lazio gamely took up the Republican standard and set about transforming himself, a Long Island congressman, into a candidate able to compete on a quasi-national stage with Mrs. Clinton. He did so admirably, mounting a credible campaign based on moderate Republican credentials in a moderate-to-liberal state. But Mr. Lazio's opponent relied not on the usual political credentials, but rather on an unprecedented mixture of celebrity liberalism, scandalous notoriety and the blatant misuse of executive powers. Given this match, it is little wonder, as some critics have complained, that Mr. Lazio emerged most vividly as "the anti-Hillary." It wasn't enough but it should have been.



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