N.Y. Senate: Hillary Coasting to Reelection
Former Westchester County district attorney Jeanine Pirro (R) today announced that she is giving up on her bid against Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D) and instead will run for New York attorney general.
The Pirro switch had been in the works for weeks as she had huddled with various Republican Party leaders in New York who encouraged her to get into a more winnable race. She becomes the second GOP candidate to back out of challenging HRC; Ed Cox, the son-in-law of President Richard Nixon, dropped from the contest earlier in the fall after Gov. George Pataki (R) endorsed Pirro. The lone remaining Republican candidate at the moment is former Yonkers Mayor John Spencer.
Let's hope that Pirro's departure brings an end to the wall-to-wall coverage of the New York race being competitive From the moment that former New York City Rudy Giuliani (R) made clear that he had no interest in a Senate bid, this race was a non-starter. Sen. Clinton is the odds on favorite against any other GOP challenger (Check out the latest poll matching Clinton against Pirro if you need empirical evidence.)
The only questions remaining remaining in regard to Clinton's reelection is how big her winning margin is and how much money she has in the bank in November 2006.
Clinton set the bar relatively high in 2000 when she won the open-seat race against then-Rep. Rick Lazio (R) with 55 percent of the vote -- a larger margin than polls had predicted. Given that result, anything under 60 percent is somewhat disappointing for Clinton. Above 60 and she can reasonably claim a mandate for her style of leadership -- a nice launching pad for her expected 2008 presidential bid.
As for money, the sky appears to be the limit. Clinton will surely spend $10 million (or more) on positive ads statewide to drive up her vote totals. But unless something changes drastically in the Republican field, she will not be forced into any sort of prolonged television battle.
At the end of September, Clinton had raised $27 million for her reelection campaign and had a staggering $14 million on hand. Again, her 2000 race serves as a rough guide for expectations setting. In that campaign, she raised and spent $41 million -- a total that does not include the millions in donor dollars she steered toward the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee to support her candidacy.
Given that the contribution limits on individuals have doubled since Clinton first ran five years ago, it seems entirely reasonable to expect her to raise in the neighborhood of $80 million this time around. And, even if she speeds up her current spending pace in 2006, Clinton will have (conservatively) $20-30 million on hand when she wins reelection next November.
Every penny of that war chest could be transferred directly to a presidential account -- a prospect that should strike fear in all of her potential Democratic primary opponents and even the Republicans eyeing their party's 2008 nomination.
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