- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 21, 2005

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — After weeks of pressure from her own party to drop out, Republican Jeanine Pirro abandoned her struggling campaign to unseat Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and announced yesterday that she will run for New York attorney general instead.

“I have decided that my law-enforcement background better qualifies me for a race for New York state attorney general than a race for the United States Senate,” said Mrs. Pirro, the Westchester County district attorney. She made no public appearance.

With her campaign in trouble, Mrs. Pirro had been under strong pressure from top state party leaders to make the switch.

A Democratic strategist said the development could only boost the former first lady’s already solid standing as a potential 2008 presidential contender.

The move leaves Republicans with two active candidates for the Senate nomination, former Yonkers Mayor John Spencer, who is not well-known statewide, and an even less well-known tax attorney from the Catskills region, William Brenner.

Some supporters expect New York City lawyer Edward Cox, a son-in-law of former President Richard Nixon, to consider re-entering the Senate race. Mr. Cox withdrew in October after Republican Gov. George E. Pataki endorsed Mrs. Pirro.

Clinton campaign adviser Howard Wolfson said, “We know, at some point, the Republicans will sort out this process and choose a nominee.”

Mrs. Pirro’s campaign had been rocky from the start. During her announcement address, she lost a page from her speech and stood silent for 32 seconds. She had trouble raising money.

And independent polls have shown the former first lady with huge leads over Mrs. Pirro and the other potential Republican challengers. As of the end of September, Mrs. Clinton had about $14 million in her campaign coffers.

Mrs. Pirro, who is pro-choice and supports homosexual rights, also had major problems in her attempts to court support from the state Conservative Party. No Republican running statewide in New York has won without Conservative Party support since 1974.

Hank Sheinkopf, a strategist who worked on President Clinton’s successful 1996 re-election campaign, said the Republican woes represented a huge boost for the former first lady’s possible run for the White House in 2008. Polls have shown her leading the Democratic field.

“It allows the senator to run a campaign that focuses on the kind of constituency she would need to win in a presidential contest — notably white males and Catholics — unfettered by a real Republican challenge,” said Mr. Sheinkopf, who is not involved in Mrs. Clinton’s campaign.

“The national Republican Party will not be happy at the failure of New York state Republicans to be able to credibly attack the No. 1 enemy of the Republican Party.”

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