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Ed Koch vs. Al D'Amato:
I'm Right, You're Wrong

Our boys get the buzz on the mayoral sweepstakes, Hillary's Israel problem, and Lazio’s laugh lines.

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Maer Roshan: Let's start with the upcoming mayoral race, which has gotten a lot more exciting now that Rudy's staying on at City Hall.

Ed Koch: Poor Mark Green.

Al D'Amato: Poor Mark Green. My heart breaks for him! Mark was devastated. Laughs He feels so badly about the mayor's health!

E.K.: There are four candidates preparing to run for mayor in 2002: Mark Green, Alan Hevesi, Freddie Ferrer, and Peter Vallone. I've worked with every one of them. I'm friends, to different degrees, with all of them. But I believe that Peter is the best of the bunch. He got the City Council to work as a unit. Even I could never do that! Laughs Vallone's made the council a powerful institution, and he's made a lot of friends. It's going to be close, but Peter will prevail.

M.R.: Do you have any horses in this race, Senator?

A.D.: I have no horse in this race. Actually, Republicans will be lucky to hook a donkey for this race! Although former police commissioner Bill Bratton has been hinting he might run. He'd be strong.

M.R.: Will you be onboard?

A.D.: I'm reserving my options. If he can raise enough money, Bratton would be formidable. But it all depends upon what happens in the Democratic primary. Each one of the Democrats brings something to the table. But none of them can get close to 40 percent of the vote. There will have to be a runoff.

M.R.: Speaking of pick-'em races: As of today's polls, Lazio and Hillary are dead even.

A.D.: I told you so, both of you! I predicted that Lazio would come within single digits of Hillary, and I said he would do it three weeks after the convention. It's no surprise. Lazio's a more formidable candidate than Giuliani, because he doesn't generate the antagonism that Rudy or Hillary do.

E.K.: The fact that Lazio surged fifteen points in less than ten days is extraordinary. But Hillary will still win. The race has changed since Rudy got out. Now it's become a traditional battle over party philosophy, and that's helpful to Hillary. Important issues are at stake: On health care, Democrats are far better. Hillary wants to address the 45 million Americans who are without insurance. You have the prescription-drug issue. Democrats believe that Medicare should pay for prescription drugs. Republicans don't. You have race relations, which Republicans have no feel for. Then you have abortion, which may turn out to be Lazio's biggest problem of all. It'll undo him.

A.D.: Then why are the Democrats so desperate? Hillary's people are making Lazio out to be Newt Gingrich, but he's in the political mainstream. She hits Lazio for not supporting gun control, but he voted for the Brady Bill! The fact is, he is pro-choice, with limitations. So I'll make another prediction. Write it down! Lazio's going to win by six points.

M.R.: It's true that Hillary is underperforming with crucial Democratic voting blocs. How do you explain her nasty reception at the Israeli Day Parade, Ed?

E.K.: Let me tell you how that works. I've been to more parades than I care to remember. When you have a parade during an election, your opponent gets their partisans to come out, and the same 25 people follow the candidate, and the cameras, up the sidewalk, yelling and cursing. But when it comes to Israel, Hillary's positions are my positions. They are Barak's positions. The fact is, among Jews, Hillary still leads Lazio by 18 points, and she'll do even better after I march with her!

A.D.: Rick has a stronger pro-Israel record. For one thing, he supports moving the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Hillary doesn't.

M.R.: Lazio suffered his own embarrassments last week. An aide sent out a copy of a speech of his in which an assistant helpfully supplied cues on when he should smile. Do your handlers tell you when to smile, Senator?

A.D.: For me, smiling is natural. Some need to be told. Not surprisingly, the Democrats are using this to portray him as a lightweight robot type. It won't work. People are going to look at his legislative record. They're going to say, "He's sensible, he's reasonable -- in fact, he reminds me of my grandson."

M.R.: He might remind you of your grandson, Senator, but even your grandson may not be ready to become junior senator from New York.

A.D.: My grandson? Alfonse Murphy? I tell you, with a name like Alfonse Murphy, he can become governor and president! If only I had Murphy at the end of the Alfonse, I'd be president too!

Al D'Amato is a columnist at George.


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