If, in the wake of his wife’s adultery charge, Rudolph Giuliani doesn’t run for the U.S. Senate against Hillary Clinton, that “would leave the Republican Party in the lurch,” notes Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan. New York Republicans would be looking at not only the loss of a U.S. Senate seat and the potential creation of a Kennedy-like Clinton dynasty, but also the possible loss of the state Senate, the New York GOP’s main power base, and the governorship in 2002.
Conservatives such as Noonan hope that New York’s current governor, George Pataki, would step in and save the party. But Pataki doesn’t seem to want to do that, and anyway (as the New York Post’s Fred Dicker notes), he got all of 51.5 percent of the vote against token opposition the last time he ran. Another rumored GOP savior, multimillionaire investor Ted Forstmann, has already dropped out. That leaves Congressmen Peter King and Rick Lazio. The former is pro-life, and the latter has taken many conservative stands that won’t sit well with New York’s relatively liberal electorate. And the state party convention is only a couple of weeks away.
For New York Republicans, then, it looks like it’s Rudy or the abyss. There’s nobody else to run. Tim Russert, get ready to book Sen. Hillary Rodham …
Hey, wait a minute! There is somebody. I just mentioned her. She’s a nationally known Republican. She lives in and was raised in New York. She’s eloquent, attractive, telegenic, with a genuine record of accomplishments she achieved on her own, not by riding her husband’s coattails. She’d have no trouble raising millions. She knows the policies, and the politics behind the policies. She knows Hillary Clinton’s strengths, having pointed out early on what a potentially formidable campaigner the first lady was. She also knows the case against Hillary Clinton–having actually written The Case Against Hillary Clinton, a best-selling book attacking Mrs. Clinton’s Senate bid.
Peggy Noonan’s candidacy would drive Hillary crazy. As a woman, Noonan could even raise the Flytrap issue–accusing Hillary of being a doormat–with some impunity. The suburban moms who hold the key to the election would be back in play. The Hillaryites already despise Noonan (who had the gall to dedicate her anti-Rodham screed “To Eleanor Roosevelt”), meaning they will probably underestimate her and make mistakes, assuming New Yorkers share their disgust. Meanwhile, Noonan has shown she’s capable of coolly assessing her opponent’s position.
Noonan would probably still lose, of course. I’m not sure whom I’d vote for myself. But I am sure it would be one of the great Senate campaigns of recent times–a genuine clash of perspectives and personalities, certainly more edifying than Clinton vs. Giuliani. The debates alone would attract Super Bowl audiences. At least the media would be happy, the citizenry would be sated, and Noonan would get a good book out of it.
Memo to Noonan: You only live once. This is your chance to back up your words (“Clintonism should not be allowed to continue. And if it is not to continue, the next great battle … is the battle of New York”) with actions. You can be someone who writes speeches or someone others write speeches about. What do you have to lose? Or are you scared to put yourself on the line the way Hillary has?
Photograph of Hillary Clinton on the Slate Table of Contents by Larry Downing/Reuters.