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N.Y. Gov.: Weld Drops From GOP Primary Race

Much will be written in the next few days about William Weld's decision to drop out of the New York gubernatorial race.

The truth? It doesn't matter one bit.

William Weld
Weld dropped out of the N.Y. governor's race on Tuesday. Now he can't join Sam Houston in the history books as the only other American to serve as governor of two different states. (AP Photo)

Weld was a major figure during the 1990s when he served as governor of Massachusetts from 1990 to 1996 and then ran against Sen. John Kerry (D) in a classic clash of political titans. After falling to oust Kerry in that race, President Clinton wanted him to serve as U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, but Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) would have nothing of it. Weld never recovered politically.

At first, his entrance into the New York gubernatorial election this year was greeted enthusiastically by a state party desperate for a credible candidate against Attorney General Eliot Spitzer (D). But that excitement quickly ebbed as Weld was forced to weather questions about his role as CEO of a bankrupt for-profit college that is being investigated by the Justice Department. (The New York Times published a long piece on this earlier this year, but you can only read it if you have a subscription to nytimes.com.)

The death blow to Weld's hopes came last week when he was routed by former Assembly Minority Leader John Faso at the state party's nominating convention. Faso took better than 60 percent of the delegates' votes compared with 29 percent for Weld. Soon after, state GOP Chairman Stephen Minarik and others in the party urged Weld to drop out to avoid a costly primary. At his announcement earlier today, Weld said now was "a time to look beyond your aspirations for the bigger picture."

That bigger picture does not look promising for Republicans. Weld's departure simply means that Faso will be the all-but-assured sacrificial lamb against Spitzer in the fall. A recent Quinnipiac University poll showed Spitzer with a 67 percent to 16 percent lead over Faso. That margin is sure to shrink somewhat in the coming months as Faso gets better known in the state, but it would take a major political upheaval for Spitzer to lose this race, which is currently ranked as the most likely to change parties on The Fix's ranking of gubernatorial races.

More interesting than Spitzer's coronation in the governor's race is the effect his all-but-assured victory could have on several targeted congressional races in Upstate New York. With Spitzer and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton at the top of the ballot, Democrats believe they have improved chances of winning the open 24th District as well as defeat GOP incumbents in the 19th, 20th and 29th districts. Stay tuned.

By Chris Cillizza  |  June 6, 2006; 4:30 PM ET
Categories:  Governors  
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